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miércoles, 14 de febrero de 2018

Russia to hold their own version of Winter Olympics with all of the banned Russian athletes

Russia may be formally banned from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang for their doping scandal, but that isn’t stopping its heads of state from holding their own games to include athletes banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

According to Russian news agency TASS, Russian president Vladimir Putin has officially authorized the alternative games, to be held over “several weeks” in various Russian cities, with prizes comparable to those offered in the Olympics.

The RussOlympics

The former Soviet Union held similar alternative competitions after the 2016 Summer Olympics in which Russian athletes were banned from competing, as well. Titled “Stars 2016,” this impromptu tournament included over 150 Russian athletes, many of whom were banned from competing in the internationally sanctioned Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, the winter Russian games will be held after the actual 2018 Olympics and will include five sports.

Mutko described the upcoming competition:

In order to preserve our potential in winter sports, support athletes and give them a chance to fulfill themselves, an order [of the Russian government] was signed that determines five sports: skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, short track and speed skating in which almost all [Russian athletes] were not admitted [to the Games].

Not all of Russia’s athletes are banned from the games in Pyeongchang, however. In total, 168 competitors identified as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” were permitted to take part as neutral players without any official state affiliation. IOC rules state that these participants must “refrain from any public form of publicity, activity and communication associated with the national flag, anthem, emblem and symbol” at any Olympic site.

Presumably, this was because the IOC did not want to punish the individual athletes who have worked the better parts of their lives to compete at the Olympic Games while still punishing the Russian team.

However, as noted in a BBC report, Russian spectators are not subject to this patriotic injunction. In a show of defiance, hundreds of flag-waving fans were present to cheer on their favorite Russian stars, prompting OAR speed skater Semen Elistratov to dedicate Russia’s first 2018 Olympic medal to his comrades who were banned from participating in “such a hard and unfair way.”

Sochi gold medalist figure skater Maxim Trankov echoed the rebellious sentiment of his countrymen, shrugging off the neutral designation applied to athletes from Russia. He told reporters:

We are all Russian patriots, all athletes. It doesn’t matter what we are called: Olympic Athletes from Russia or Team Russia. It doesn’t matter because our homeland, it’s Russia.

Russians have traditionally been big winners in past winter games, and banning them was a tough decision given the exorbitant costs associated with hosting the games. Russia has one of the largest TV audiences to support the Olympics, and event authorities have worried that their lack of formal participation could come with significant losses in advertising revenue.

State-sponsored doping scandal

Russia’s Olympic woes started in 2015 when a German television broadcast detailed the sophisticated depths of Russia’s doping program and the state’s efforts to deceive doping compliance authorities. Russian intelligence operatives went so far as to swap tainted samples at a Sochi testing facility with clean ones by using a hole in a wall to access the samples.

The World Anti-Doping Authority followed up in June 2016 with an extensive report that formally spelled out the offenses. The IOC refused to implement a full ban of Russia’s Olympic team for the summer 2016 games until they could completely verify the WADA claims.

Netflix also released the wildly successful documentary Icarus which delved into the Russian doping scandal.

Russia’s leaders continue to challenge the IOC’s ruling and publicly deny any wrongdoing. President Putin called the decision to ban his country from participating a response to Russia’s alleged interference in America’s 2016 election. Mutko has been similarly impetuous, insisting that the Olympic committee’s ruling was “unique and new,” and noting that Russian athletes continue to be “regarded by another sports community as normal, clean athletes.”

As of Monday, the Olympic Athletes from Russia have one silver and one bronze medal. However, we can probably expect the doped-up athletes participating in Russia’s Olympic Games to shatter world records due to their performance enhanced medical conditioning.