The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea over an illegal, state-backed doping operation, The New York Times reports.
As a result of the suspension, Russia's flag will not appear at the opening ceremony, nor will it's national anthem play. The IOC will also fine the Russian Olympic Committee $15 million. However, some Russian athletes may be given special dispensation to compete at the Winter Olympics, though they will be forced to compete in neutral uniforms and any medals they win will not be tallied for Russia in the official record books. Athletes will be chosen based on whether they have undergone extensive anti-drug testing and if they have previously been banned over positive doping results.
The punishment was handed down after the IOC completed its own investigation into Russia's massive doping operation. The IOC's report did not uncover any new details, but rather reiterated the scale and scope of the operation, which Richard McLaren, an investigator for the World Anti-Doping Agency, first uncovered.
McLaren found that the "state-run doping scheme" ran between 2011 to 2015, during which time Russia's deputy minister of sport ordered lab workers to withhold 312 positive tests from WADA. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the sports ministry assembled a team that tampered with over 100 urine samples, resulting in the belated disqualification of of over two dozen Russian athletes from the final standings (a special ceremony to reassign medals will take place next year in Pyeongchang). The report ultimately led the Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations to ban Russia from international track and field, while 68 athletes were barred from competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
In December 2016, Russia admitted to the existence of the doping scheme, though continued to deny that top state officials, including President Vladimir Putin, were aware of the operation. In April, Russia publicly apologised for the scandal.
Russia's Olympic Committee is expected to appeal the decision and some officials have hinted at a potential boycott.