Russia is banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics
There's a classic Saturday Night Live sketch from 1988 called the "All Drug Olympics." For the event, athletes are allowed to "take any substance they want before, after or even during the competition." Phil Hartman plays a Russian weightlifter who tries to lift 1,500 pounds, after taking a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs. But when he attempts the lift, his arms rip off and blood spurts everywhere. It's a hilarious premise, but twenty-six years later, the "All Drug Olympics" sort of happened.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia was so desperate to win, and look dominant on their home turf, that they cheated in an unprecedented manner. Dozens of Russian athletes - including at least 15 medal winners - took steroids as part of a state-wide doping program. Pulling off this scheme took years of meticulous planning. The Russian sports ministry even put together a 'secret team' to meddle with over a hundred urine samples, in order to hide the evidence. ("So, Sergei, what do you do for work?" "I'm on Russia's Secret Pee Team." "Gross." "Yeah, it's pretty gross.")
We know all of this thanks to two whistle-blowers - Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of the anti-doping laboratory, and Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the lab, who carried out the elaborate plot. They came forward to expose the massive doping scandal - at great personal risk - and issued statements excoriating their home country for resorting to such shameful tactics.
“The world knows that hundreds of Olympic dreams have been stolen by the doping system in the country where I was born,” wrote Stepanov. “The time has come for Russia to do the right thing and admit its past transgressions for the benefit of Russian sport," wrote Rodchenkov. "Russia’s continuing intransigence is the greatest yoke around the necks of Russia’s athletes."
At the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the International Olympic Committee decided not to ban Russia from participating. “At the time of Rio, it was mainly about the failure of a Moscow laboratory, now it’s about the manipulation of an Olympic laboratory,” explained Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., to the press. "[However] we have applied now the appropriate sanctions."
Today the I.O.C. announced Russia's punishment for cheating, and it's pretty severe: Russia is officially banned from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea. At the opening ceremony, the Russian anthem will not be played, and the Russian flag will not be displayed. No Russian athletes who competed at Sochi will be allowed to attend the event. If clean Russian athletes want to compete, they will have to wear a "neutral uniform," and if they win, no awards will be attributed to Russia. The record books permanently will say "Russia - zero medals." (And perhaps also, "Putin - stupid jerk.")
The Russian government hilariously continues to deny any wrongdoing (you can see why they get along so well with President Trump). Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin just released this vague statement: “The main thing is to persistently and energetically take all possible measures to protect our legitimate interests and the legitimate interests of our athletes together with international sports organizations." Rumor has it Russia may be planning a total boycott of the 2018 games. Also, this decision could have serious repercussions for next year's World Cup, which takes place, you guessed it, in Russia.
But hey, Russia, don't take your exclusion from 2018 Games too bad. Maybe you can throw your own "All Drug Olympics" in Moscow.