COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colorado – Nikita Avtaneev was tethered to his snowboard, twirling through the thin, crisp air on Tuesday, as his Olympic destiny announced in half the world. It was not until the end of the snowboarder training that he received the news issued by the International Olympic Committee: Russia, the home country of Avtaneev, will not be able to compete in the Winter Games in South Korea in February due to widespread doping violations . .
The Olympic world immediately began to process the ramifications of the unprecedented decision of the IOC, calculating what the news means for the competition in PyeongChang this winter and the dreams of the athletes who have spent years in training.
Avtaneev, 22, is one of dozens of Russian athletes who hope to take advantage of an exemption allowed by the IOC that allows Olympic contenders to compete if they can show that they are clear. They would be designated by the IOC as a "Russian Olympic athlete" and participate in the Olympics without a national anthem, flag or team uniform.
"I want to compete," said Avtaneev, who is trying for the second time. Olympics in men's halfpipe. "I'll stick the sticker on my helmet saying I'm Russian."
Avtaneev is at Copper Mountain this week, competing in a Grand Prix event that serves as qualifier for the Olympic Games. Regardless of how you do it here, you will still need to navigate a separate qualification process to get to PyeongChang, an IOC panel that will check all Russian competitors to determine if they have been disqualified for previous doping infractions and if they have completed all the tests previous -Discussion of Olympic drugs.
The decision of the IOC has implications for virtually all sports, except that some medal contenders formidable compete and making sure that some who reach the podium have to deal with an asterisk next to their name due to a diminished field. As the venue for the Winter Olympics four years ago, Russia was able to compete in all 1
Although 33 medals were initially awarded to Russia in Sochi, the country's count of medals has been reduced to 22 due to disqualifications related to doping. That number could fall further. Almost half of the Sochi medalists from Russia have been implicated in the doping scheme, and two dozen athletes are in the midst of disciplinary proceedings.
Even before the announcement of the IOC on Tuesday, some of Russia's main competitors had already been excluded from competing in PyeongChang, the cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who was stripped of two Sochi medals; the skeletal slider Aleksandr Tretyakov, who lost his Sochi gold medal; and speed skater Olga Fatkulina, who was stripped of her Sochi silver medal.
Some sports will surely notice the absence of a Russian team more than others. The decision on Tuesday had a great impact on sliding sports, such as the sled, the skeleton and the sled; Nordic sports, including cross-country skiing and biathlon; and potentially figure skating, where Russia is a traditional threat on the podium.
In skeleton, for example, Russia sent six athletes to Sochi. Five have since been disqualified, and two Russian medals were abandoned.
"I would be lying if I said I was very optimistic that they were going to suffer a severe penalty," said American skater Matt Antoine, who won a bronze medal in 2014. "I am extremely happy to see them make the tough decision, and the right decision, to protect the integrity of the Games, their entire reputation was really at stake, and in the end they did the right thing. "
At the Sochi Games, Russia won five figure skating medals, including three gold medals, and in this year's world championship, Evgenia Medvedeva won the women's championship, while Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took bronze in pairs . Medvedeva was only 14 years old during the Sochi Games and has not faced any accusation of wrongdoing, which could make her a possible candidate for an IOC exemption. But Medvedeva told the IOC executive committee on Tuesday that she still could not commit to participating as a neutral athlete.
"I always believed that the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games should be fought on the ice," he said. "Unfortunately, now I understand that I can lose that opportunity due to a situation that does not depend on me … I am proud of my country I have great pride in representing him in the Games".
Avtaneev similarly opined that Tuesday's decision effectively punishes many Russian athletes who have done nothing wrong. "No, it's not okay," he said. "Those who are not clear about doping is their problem, so they must answer for themselves."
Russia also won five Sochi medals in short track speed skating, four of which came from Viktor Ahn, one of the best ever tying a pair of skates. Ahn was born in Seoul and competed for South Korea in the 2006 Olympics before gaining Russian citizenship and skating for his adopted land in Sochi, where he won three gold and one bronze medals.
The return of Ahn to Korean soil to have the opportunity to finish his career in his native country promises to be one of the greatest stories of these Olympic Games if he is granted the status of a neutral competitor, which seems likely. He had previously said that he intended to retire after the PyeongChang Games.
The decision throws an even darker cloud over the men's hockey tournament. NHL players can no longer compete, and without Russia in the mix, it is likely that they will not be allowed to compete with players from the Moscow-based Kontinental Hockey League, considered the second best in the world, further diluting the competitive group. .
The news on Tuesday was mostly well received by administrators, coaches and athletes competing under the theme of Team USA. Tiger Shaw, CEO of the Ski and Snowboard Association of the United States, said the decision "demonstrates a strong commitment to the importance of clean sport."
"We now expect the International Ski Federation [FIS] to hold a meeting of the FIS Council to review the decision of the IOC and related evidence to consider its impact on the Russian Ski Association, its members of the FIS committee, officials and athletes, "he said in a statement.
Hayley Wickenheiser, a six-time Olympian from Canada and a member of the IOC Athletes Commission, says that the burden now falls on the international federations for each sport, as well as on the IOC review panel to ensure that the Russians Yes they receive compete in PyeongChang it is clean.
"Many clean athletes do not lose the possibility that Russian athletes who were part of this system had no other option but to comply," he said in a statement.
Barry Svlurga and Isabelle Khurshudyan in Washington contributed to this report.