Russian Federation banned from 2018 Winter Olympic Games

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams attends a press conference during an IOC executive meeting

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko has said that the Kremlin will support Russian athletes who decide to compete in neutral uniforms at next year's Winter Games after the country's team was barred for doping violations this week.

Russian athletes will be free to take part in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games under the Olympic flag, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"For us the athletes' interests have always been the priority", TASS news agency quoted Mutko as saying late on Wednesday.

It's been called an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport, prompting the most wide-ranging punishment ever meted out to a participating nation.

The IOC took the decision after holding a meeting at their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. "I think time will settle everything down".

Russian authorities have never acknowledged the state's alleged role in the scandal but have pledged to work with global sports bodies to help curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the country.

In truth, the International Olympic Committee could hardly fail to act given the evidence uncovered by the explosive World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sponsored McLaren report and two subsequent International Olympic Committee investigations, which found that Russian athletes had taken part in an elaborate drug cheating programme that reached its zenith at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The report of the IOC's Disciplinary Commission, on which the ban is based, avoids politicised generalisations about the existence of a "state-run" doping system in Russian Federation. Russia's athletics federation, Paralympic Committee and anti-doping agency RUSADA remain suspended over doping scandals. At the same time, the IOC intends to respect the rights of clean athletes, allowing them to participate in the upcoming games as "Olympic Athletes of Russian Federation".

The ban means that now "clean" Russian athletes can not participate in the games under their country's flags.

Russia could refuse the offer to let its athletes compete without national identity or the playing of the Russian national anthem. One example: With the National Hockey League electing not to participate, the Russians could let even more air out of the tournament by barring players from its domestic Kontinental Hockey League, considered the second-best circuit in the world, from playing. The Pyeongchang organising committee said Wednesday it would prefer if Russians competed under their own flag, but accepted as "second-best" the decision to allow their participation as neutrals. "I support them", Ovechkin said. "I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have - whether it's Jerusalem or North Korea - it's about, how do we protect the United States citizens in the area?"

"The final decision of course must be made by the Olympic team", he said.

Roughly translated, it goes: "I'd like to drink honey with your lips".

"They've been working and training to be able to represent their country", said Jess Schultz, an Olympic curler from Anchorage.

In the absence of a boycott, the Russian public will watch Russian athletes compete in South Korea and be reminded of why their flag is not flying at the Games.

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