The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Games for systematically using performance-enhancing drugs. The announcement marks the most dramatic punishment against a country in Olympic history.
On Dec. 5, the IOC announced that Russia would not be allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian officials will be prohibited from attending the event and the nation's flag and anthem will not be featured throughout the games, The New York Times reports.
IOC made the decision after reviewing an investigation into a massive doping scheme that had been sanctioned by the Russian government.
In December 2016, a probe conducted by Canadian attorney Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency found that Russia had carried out a doping program that involved up to 1,000 athletes over the course of four years. The investigation found that 695 Russian athletes were complicit in covering up the doping, according to USA Today.
McLaren's probe also alleged that the Russian sports ministry had tampered with over 100 urine samples to cover up their athletes' doping during the 2014 Sochi Games.
IOC appointed former Swiss President Samuel Schmid to review the allegations. Schmid announced that McLaren's "analysis is clear and water-tight."
Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia's former anti-doping lab chief, became a whistleblower and informed IOC of his country's cheating during the 2014 Winter Games.
"The world knows that hundreds of Olympic dreams have been stolen by the doping system in the country where I was born. ... The evidence is clear, that the doping system in Russia has not yet been truly reformed," Rodchenkov wrote in an affidavit.
On Nov. 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the IOC investigation into his government's doping scheme, asserting that the controversy was a conspiracy engineered to embarrass Russia.
"I have very serious suspicions that this is done to create the necessary environment, to incite discontent among sports fans, athletes, that the state was allegedly involved in these violations and is responsible for them," Putin said.
Russian athletes who wish to compete in the 2018 Winter Games will be allowed to petition the IOC. They would have to undergo rigorous drug testing in order to participate. Russia will not be awarded any medals from the games in Pyeongchang, CNN reports.
The Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million and ordered to reimburse IOC for its investigation.