Thomas Bach

Russia banned from Olympics; athletes can compete as neutrals

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Russia’s Olympic Committee was banned from the PyeongChang Olympics due to the nation’s doping scandal, but individual Russian athletes will be invited to compete at the Winter Games as neutrals under the Olympic Flag.

The full IOC announcement is here.

Russian athletes deemed “clean” by a panel will be invited to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).”

No Russian flag, anthem or uniforms (except for, possibly, the Closing Ceremony), though the word “Russia” is expected to be on the uniforms.

If an OAR athlete or team wins gold, the Olympic Anthem will play just as it did for the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Games.

The IOC said athletes will be invited via “strict conditions” detailed here:

  • Athletes must not have had a doping violation.
  • Athletes must have undergone pre-Games targeted drug tests recommended by a testing task force.
  • Athletes must have undergone any other testing requirements specified to ensure a level playing field.

“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release, adding that he does not anticipate a boycott by Russian athletes. “The IOC [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by [the World Anti-Doping Agency].”

The decision clears a path to PyeongChang for Russian stars like figure skater Yevgenia Medvedeva and short track speed skater Viktor Ahn.

Medvedeva spoke at the IOC meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday. Read what she said here.

“Invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR),'” the IOC release read.

Bach repeated that statement when asked how Tuesday’s decision affects Russian hockey and curling teams and relays.

The International Ice Hockey Federation was not ready to comment on the situation immediately after the announcement, according to hockey media.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to comment on the decision Wednesday, according to Russian media.

The next steps for Russian athletes and officials are expected to be discussed at a meeting next Tuesday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was banned from the Olympics for life. The Russia Olympic Committee was fined $15 million.

Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov, whose IOC membership was suspended, apologized before Tuesday’s announcement, Bach said. Bach declined to detail for what Zhukov apologized, but Zhukov’s speech was later published.

“As the exclusive U.S. media rights holder through 2032, we believe in clean competition and strong actions to ensure it,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “Therefore, we fully support today’s IOC decision, which levels significant sanctions against the guilty, but also provides a path for clean athletes to compete in PyeongChang.”

MORE: Russian stars await Olympic invites | U.S. athletes react

Russia’s doping scandal emanates from the Sochi Olympics. It was first reported in May 2016 that Russian Olympians on performance-enhancing substances were protected by a urine-swapping scheme. Implicated Russian athletes have denied being part of a doping plan.

Late-night swaps of dirty samples for clean urine stored months earlier went via a “mouse hole” into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.

Secret service agents had found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, claimed whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of a Moscow drug-testing lab.

After investigations, the International Olympic Committee last month began stripping Russia of Sochi Olympic medals (11 of its Sochi-leading 33 medals so far) and banning athletes from the Olympics for life (25 so far). A full list is here.

The last nation to be banned from a Winter Olympics was South Africa, which was barred from 1964 through 1992 due to its apartheid policies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: 100 Olympic storylines 100 days out from PyeongChang

It’s official: LA gets 2028 Olympics, Paris gets 2024

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By a show of hands, the IOC confirmed that Paris will host the 2024 Olympics, and Los Angeles will get the 2028 Olympics.

As expected, IOC members approved an agreement made among the two cities and IOC leaders earlier this summer to make the historic double award.

Before that, today’s meeting in Lima, Peru, was scheduled to be a vote between Paris and LA for the 2024 Games only. Recognizing the two strong bids, IOC leaders pushed this spring and summer to award Olympics and Paralympics to both cities this year.

LA and Paris gave 25-minute presentations Wednesday with speeches and videos to IOC members before the show of hands.

The LA 2028 speakers included Olympic champions Allyson FelixJanet Evans and Angela RuggieroMichael Johnson, who turned 50 on Wednesday, was also in attendance.

USOC chairman Larry Probst spoke of perseverance.

The U.S. lost in bidding for 2012 (New York City) and 2016 (Chicago). Its original 2024 bid city, Boston, dropped out two years ago after lack of local support.

For LA, it started with a January 2013 letter from former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the USOC expressing interest in bidding for the 2024 Olympics. It was signed by Magic Johnson and Tom Hanks.

LA lost to Boston in the initial competition to be the U.S. host city before taking over quickly after Boston bowed out. It navigated a crowded original 2024 international bid race that saw Rome, Hamburg and Budapest all drop out.

“It has been a formidable journey to get here, but we never gave up hope,” Probst said in his speech Wednesday.

Paris’ presentation included a video titled, “24 words for Paris 2024” that featured Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner and Neymar, the Brazilian soccer gold medalist who last month transferred from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

MORE: Paris Olympic bid plan includes Eiffel Tower area

Additionally, French president Emmanuel Macron spoke in a pre-recorded video.

“I wanted to re-emphasize here the full commitment of a whole country behind these Games,” Macron said. “In our world today, defending the values of Olympism also means working for greater balance, more multilateralism and towards a more inclusive, more sustainable society.”

The last time two Olympic hosts were determined at once was in 1921, when the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam Games were awarded, according to Olympstats.com. LA and Paris will join London as the only cities to host the Olympics three times.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996). Paris will host for the first time since 1924.

The U.S. ends its longest drought between hosting an Olympics since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960. It failed in bids for 2012 (New York City) and 2016 (Chicago).

Paris was a finalist for 1992, 2008 and 2012.

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IOC president to meet Donald Trump, talk Olympic bid

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President Donald Trump will meet IOC President Thomas Bach for the first time on Thursday at the White House to discuss Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympic bid, according to The New York Times and ESPN.com.

The IOC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, but Bach was in New York on Wednesday to announce the IOC’s new sponsorship deal with Intel.

Trump and Bach spoke by phone about LA 2024 in November, after Trump’s election.

Trump “expressed his strong support” for LA 2024 then, according to LA 2024. Trump later said he believed the IOC was “very happy” when it spoke with him about the bid.

“They wanted to have an endorsement from me, and I gave it to them very loud and clear,” Trump said in February. “I would love to see the Olympics go to Los Angeles. I think that it’ll be terrific. The United States committee’s members have asked me to speak up about it, and I have, and I think I’ve helped them, and let’s see what happens. But I’d be very happy and honored if they would choose Los Angeles, and we’d stand behind it.”

Los Angeles and Paris are vying for the 2024 Games, due to be voted on by IOC members on Sept. 13. But the IOC executive board recommended on June 9 that those two cities split the 2024 and 2028 Olympics instead.

Which city would get which Olympics would have to be decided. Both LA and Paris prefer 2024. Paris 2024’s stance is that it will only accept the 2024 Games. LA 2024 has repeated that it will not issue an ultimatum.

IOC members will vote on ratifying a double-awarding proposal in July.

If it’s ratified, Los Angeles will become the first U.S. Olympic host city since Salt Lake City in 2002 (Winter Games) and Atlanta in 1996, ending the U.S.’ longest drought between hosting Olympics since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

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MORE: IOC pushes plan to award 2024, 2028 Olympics to LA, Paris