Pyeongchang, Korea, Republic of, Feb 24 – Russia’s fate hung in the balance as the International Olympic Committee met Saturday to decide whether to lift its ban for mass doping before the Pyeongchang Winter Games closing ceremony.
Russia’s national Olympic committee were suspended in December over systemic drug-cheating that reached its apex at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.
The IOC allowed 168 Russians deemed drug-free to compete in South Korea under a neutral flag, but despite extensive vetting, two of them failed drugs tests.
The IOC will decide in the next 36 hours whether the country can be readmitted. Officials have pointed out that a “partial” lifting of the ban is one option for the IOC.
The behaviour of the 168 Russian athletes over the past fortnight — including the failed doping tests — will form a major part of the considerations.
The IOC was giving nothing away on Saturday as its executive board met behind closed doors to pour over the observations of a special panel scrutinising the Russians.
“The executive board will hear and decide today on the basis of what they’ve heard from the panel what the next steps will be,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
The Russians are hoping that the ban could be lifted in time to parade their national flag for Sunday evening’s closing ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.
On Friday, Russia’s bobsleigh federation said female pilot Nadezhda Sergeyeva had tested positive for a “heart medicine” which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
It was dope-scarred Russia’s second doping case in Pyeongchang, after curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his mixed doubles bronze medal for taking the banned substance meldonium.
Addressing the latest case, Adams said: “We are always extremely disappointed when there’s a doping case, but so far there have been very few cases.”