Sports Pulse: USA TODAY Sports journalist Rachel Axon breaks down the IOC decision to ban Russia from the Winter Olympics.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Three years after the first revelations about Russian systemic doping came to light, the International Olympiad The committee's decision to ban Russia from the Olympics of Pyeongchang imposed significant sanctions on the biggest international sport scene.

Russia will be excluded from the Olympic Games, the punishment for which an IOC commission concluded on Tuesday was a "systematic manipulation of anti-doping rules" operated through the Sochi Olympic Games 2014.

But in the unprecedented decision of the IOC there are enough olive branches so that Russia does not permanently remain as a black sheep.

Individual Russian athletes can compete in Pyeong chang in February, provided they meet the guidelines and are approved by a panel, while the Russian Olympic Committee remains suspended.

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More: The IOC paves the way for the Russians to compete as neutral athletes

The Russians have threatened to boycott such a decision , and President Vladimir Putin is ready to address participation on Wednesday, according to Russian media reports.

"We believe that these clean Russian athletes can be more about building a bridge towards the future of a cleaner sport than erecting a new wall between Russia and the" Despite their assertion that the decision of the IOC was not political, It would be difficult to see the designation of neutral athletes as "Russian Olympic athletes" like anything else.

Athletes competing under the Olympic flag, as the Russians will, have historically been designated as independent Olympic participants or independent Olympic athletes. The Russian flag and the anthem will be gone, replaced by the Olympic versions, but the country from which these athletes come will be clear.

"Obviously it's the first real consequence, and make no mistake, it's important," said the executive director of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart. "The Olympic Games are about competing countries, and not having a Russian flag, no Russian anthem, no Russian Olympic Committee, there is a significant consequence that hopefully sends the right message to any state that wants to cheat. "

the process ahead is still complicated. The IOC established criteria for the panel that will determine eligible athletes, including those who have been subject to recommended tests prior to the games.

The panel can also specify any other test requirement. Tygart recommended a minimum number of urine and blood tests, analysis of past tests, no involvement in tests obtained by WADA and an interview under oath.

It is not clear how quickly the panel on athletes will decide before the opening of the Games on February .9, and there will certainly be fewer Russian athletes.

Already 25 athletes had their Sochi results disqualified and were banned by a separate IOC commission, resulting in a loss of 11 medals.

The IOC decision also on Tuesday includes Russian officials linked to the system that Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren called an "institutional conspiracy" that included handling samples during the Sochi Olympics. Most notably, the former director of the Moscow laboratory, the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, detailed a system of exchange of urine through a hole in the wall. He is in witness protection in the United States.

The McLaren report showed that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in a larger system to drug and cover up positive evidence.

Vitaly Mutko, then the sports minister, and his then deputy Yuri Nagornykh is excluded from all future games. The leaders of the Russian team in Sochi are also excluded.

"The proof is in the pudding, they suspended the two people who were the head of the dragon, so to speak," said Jim Walden, Rodchenkov's lawyer. "That for me is stronger than any other word they issued during the course of that press conference."

The significant step forward represents the decision of the IOC: it is the first time that a country receives such a sanction for doping. It contains a trap that could degrade its importance.

The IOC "may partially or fully suspend the suspension of the ROC from the beginning of the closing ceremony" provided that the ROC, the athletes and the officials respect and implement the IOC sanctions. [19659008] The IOC legitimately received credit for the symbolic gain of excluding the Russian flag during the Games, but runs the risk of denying it by allowing the Russian flag during the closing ceremony.

"If that is the intention, I'm sure my client will say, no matter how robust the other one is, what sends the wrong message," Walden said. "It seems like a deal, it seems like a way for the Russian Federation to tell its colleagues that a compromise was reached and that we will participate in the Games."

Through its concessions, the IOC created a path for Russia to move forward and incentivize to participate in it. To the extent that Bach would like to "look forward to a cleaner future of sport", for athletes, athletes and anti-doping leaders who have been looking for significant sanctions, their idea of ​​a bridge could be a bridge too far.


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