The IOC is set to welcome back the Russian Olympic Committee after it was banned from the Pyeongchang Games due to doping offenses. Critics aren't convinced enough has been done to ensure the ROC is brought into line.
As Olympic Athletes from Russia celebrated their gold medal victory in the ice hockey on Saturday afternoon, belting out the Russia national anthem, it was difficult to discern how exactly the country had been punished for a state-sponsored doping programme.
The athletes were from Russia, were clearly proud of their roots and not afraid to show off their patriotism, and were doing so in front of equally passionate fans.
That a Russian flag was missing from their uniforms was all but meaningless, as was the fact they weren't 'officially' competing for their country. When they marched under a neutral flag during the Pyeongchang Olympics closing ceremony, the critics weren't fooled.
Despite the IOC suspending Russia's membership in December for doping violations, there were still Russian athletes in Pyeongchang, winning Olympic medals for their country.
Sanctions due to be lifted
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is now set to lift sanctions on the Russian Olympic Committee "in a few days or a few weeks" if no further doping cases come out of the Pyeongchang Games.
Two Olympic Athletes from Russia have already accepted disqualification for doping offenses - curler Alexander Krushelnitsky and bobsled pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva.
For that reason, the IOC didn't allow the Russian team to march under their flag at the closing ceremony, and IOC president Thomas Bach was adamant it had been a successful Games.
"I don't think these Olympic Games have been been tainted by the affair," he said.
"These [doping cases] are cases of negligence and there is no indication for a systemic doping affair here or any involvement of the Olympic Athletes from Russia leadership or the Russian Olympic Committee."
That was of little consolation to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and other critics. WADA declared that Russia "remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code".
Last week, the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) said “You can’t merely wish away the most significant fraud in the history of sport".
"It has taken two positive tests on Russian athletes to force the IOC's hand when its clear intention had been to readmit the ROC before the closing of the Pyeongchang Games," a follow-up statement read.
"The disappointing fact that this is another short-lived negotiated deal, to be lifted promptly within the next few days, indicates the IOC's management of this issue has gone from bad to worse.”
Despite the criticism, however, the ROC said it had already paid a $15 million fee that was part of the criteria to have its team reinstated, and it appears just a matter of time until the organization is brought back into the Olympics fold.
js/ftm (AP, Reuters)