The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics as punishment for widespread doping.
The ruling means there will be no Russian presence at the 2018 games to be held in Pyeonchang, South Korea, in February 2018 — including no Russian officials, flags, or anthems.
The ban left open the possibility for athletes to compete as individuals, under the Olympic flag.
“The question now is to participate using this status or not,” said Aleksai Durnovo, a sports commentator on a Moscow radio station, as reported by The New York Times. “Some people think it’s a humiliation to participate like this, other that we should, to allow the athletes an opportunity to compete.”
While the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, apologized for violations of anti-doping rules, he denied that the Russian government sanctioned the misconduct.
The IOC has retroactively banned 25 Russian athletes who competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia, for doping violations, stripping them of 11 medals.
Some Russian sports enthusiasts encouraged athletes to participate in the Olympics.
“We have to prove to everyone that we’re the best,” Alexander Tikhonov, a former champion biathlete, told Championat.com, a sports website. “Competing without the anthem and the flag is not a treachery. We have to go and to give hell to everyone: to the Americans, to the whole world.”
Other commentators blamed the ban on politics.
“We understand why this happened — this is an echo of political differences,” said Dmitry Svishchev, a member of Parliament’s sports committee and president of the Russian Curling Federation.