What if Russians are reinstated for Pyeongchang closing ceremony?

What if Russians are reinstated for Pyeongchang closing ceremony?
From CBC - February 23, 2018

With the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony set for Sunday in Pyeongchang, one wonders if somewhere nearby there are not boxes of new Russian uniforms waiting to be opened, each stamped with RUSSIA and in the country's full colours, along with Russian flags waiting to be unfurled.

The Russian National Olympic Committee is officially suspended from these Games, a penalty for a state-sponsored doping scheme that helped propel Russia to No. 1 in medals in Sochi.

But here in Pyeongchang, 169 Russians are competing under the banner Olympic Athletes from Russia, or OAR, and they have won at least 14 medals ostensibly as neutral athletes but obviously for Russia. The ban announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Dec. 5 has been described as something of a fudge from the start.

In punishing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), the IOC also set out terms for reinstatement to the Olympic movement, including rules for good behaviour, adherence to anti-doping and a $15 million US fine.

In return for meeting the "letter and spirit' of those conditions, the IOC spelled out that it "may partially or fully lift the suspension of the ROC from the commencement of the closing ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018."

On Saturday, the IOC executive board meets to hear the findings of a panel investigating the OAR conduct during these Games.

The board will then make a final ruling, perhaps hours before the closing ceremony. And possibly, athletes may abandon their neutral grey OAR uniforms for something more familiar: the white, blue and red of the Russian federation.

This week, especially with news of two Russian doping cases, the question of whether Russia will be reinstated at the closing ceremony has been a persistent undercurrent at the Games.

On Friday, Russian bobsled athlete Nadezhda Sergeeva failed a doping test for the banned drug Trimetazidin. She had competed Wednesday at the Olympics, finishing 12th.

Earlier in the week, mixed doubles curler Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for meldonium after his bronze medal win with his wife. At first there were protestations and suggestions that someone spiked his drinks while training in Japan.

But ultimately, the OAR delegation apologized, accepted responsibility, swore allegiance to the zero tolerance approach to doping and dropped any challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A higher purpose seemed at stake.

Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the IOC, told the CBC in January: "It simply looks as if, when you are dealing with the IOC, if you deny deny deny, and you happen to be a big country, just keep denying, because they will find a way to let the athletes from your country participate."

He's been equally outspoken here in Pyeongchang. Recent comments to a British newspaper that described his IOC colleagues as "old farts" missed the mark: Pound has left Pyeongchang with several IOC members filing complaints against him.

Pound never intended to stay through to the closing ceremony. Concerned that the punishment against Russia was tailor-made to ensure reinstatement at these Olympics, Canada's ranking IOC member made it clear in a January letter to IOC president Thomas Bach that he would not be present for any sort of coming-out party at the closing ceremony.

Deal done for #Pyeongchang2018 Closing Ceremony participation? Russian curler withdraws #CAS appeal and accepts failed drugs test for meldonium. Russian fine likely to be processed later today...


Critics say Pound may have booked his flights to and from Pyeongchang before he wrote that letter, but others are standing by him, inspired by his tenacity to push the IOC to serve up severe consequences for doping and his tenacity to ensure clean sport at the Olympics.

Canadian luge silver medalist Sam Edney is among those athletes who are making noise about Russia's possible reinstatement. Tweeting about a meeting with Pound, whom he calls the "clean sport crusader," Edney says he's proud to add his voice to the conversation.


Mind their behaviour


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