All eyes will be on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as President Thomas Bach announces the board’s decision on whether or not Russia will be allowed to participate in 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The President and his board will look at the findings and recommendations of a 16-month investigation headed by Switzerland’s Former President, Samuel Schmid.
There has been an on-going investigation into alleged cheating by the Russian government when it hosted the previous Winter Games in Sochi, despite Russia’s denial of any involvement.
The IOC came under pressure prior to Rio 2016 Olympics to ban the Russian team from the Olympics after an independent report by Canadian Law Professor, Richard McLaren, concluded that the country had engaged in a state-sponsored doping scheme, which about 1, 000 athletes benefitted from across 30 sports, between 2012 and 2015.
However, IOC did not ban Russia from the 2016 Olympics, allowing hundreds of Russian athletes to compete, in which 56 medals were won.
Although there were initial fears that Bach’s close relationship with President Vladimir Putin, and a lack of any substantial proof would satisfy legal requirements, resulting in the IOC swerving a ban for fines as alternative punishment, recent evidence obtained from a Russian laboratory database may tilt the judgment.
Re-tests of Russian athletes’ samples, resulted in a host of retrospective bans and stripping of medals, costing the country its position at the top of the Sochi 2014 medal table with twenty-five Russians banned in the last month.
Rodchenkov, the whistle-blower says he had a meeting with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko to discuss the doping programme.
Mutko has always denied being involved, vehemently rejecting the allegation that the cheating was in any way state-sponsored, casting the saga as a Western conspiracy, unfairly singling out Russia.
Despite a denial on Monday from a Kremlin spokesman, some observers believe that if the IOC follows the example set by athletics’ governing body, the IAAF and the International Paralympic Committee, both which only allowed Russian athletes who could prove they were clean to compete as neutrals at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, there could be a boycott.
With Russia’s presidential election due next year, Putin may not tolerate the idea of an Olympics with no Russia flag or anthem and may order his athletes to stay at home, rather than compete under a white flag.
“You feel so proud when you see your flag, it’s very important for yourself and your country. It has to be individual responsibility, not collective.
“Our anti-doping programmes and legislation have improved. Things have changed a lot and everyone in Russia understands that doping is evil.
“For any sport, it’s very important that all countries are there and if you win you know you are the best in the world. For the IOC it’s a very hard decision and I hope they calculate and make the right decision for innocent clean, Russian athletes,” former Olympic speed-skating champion, Svetlana Zhurova said.
The stakes are definitely high in Lausanne, headquarters of the IOC.