In what many are calling an "unprecedented" ruling, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to ban Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games that will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
For the last year and a half, the IOC has been investigating rumors that Russia encouraged its athletes to cheat through the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the New York Times reports. IOC President Thomas Bach appeared a press conference Tuesday to speak about the ruling.
Although Russian athletes who pass special clearance will still be allowed to compete, they'll have to wear neutral uniforms and will compete as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)," NPR reports. The Russian flag will not be displayed and the country's anthem will not be played. Officially, the Olympic record books will show that Russia won zero medals in the 2018 Winter Games.
The Russian committee will also have to pay the IOC $15 million to pay for their investigation.
"As an athlete myself, I'm feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes," Bach, who was once an Olympic fencer, said at the press conference.
This ruling comes more than a year after a recommendation from the World Anti-Doping Agency that suggested Russia be barred from the Rio Olympics last summer. That report cited an independent investigation from the agency that found state-supported cheating by Russia's athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Some athletes who were found to be doping during those games have been stripped of their medals, and the IOC is working on how to give other athletes the recognition they deserve.
Experts say this is the harshest punishment the IOC has doled out for doping investigations, and they're hoping it will discourage anything like this from happening again.
"The IOC took a strong and principled decision," Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, told NPR. "There were no perfect options, but this decision will clearly make it less likely that this ever happens again. Now it is time to look ahead to Pyeongchang."
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