So on Tuesday the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games (which are in the coming February, in South Korea).
It’s too bad, not because the Russians don’t deserve it (they do) but because I enjoy watching Canada beat them every four years in hockey. Its ok, they can try again it 2022.
The reason they were banned is due to the IOC finding evidence of state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes. The investigations started when allegations emerged of Russian doping in the 2014 Olympics (in Sochi Russia). It’s logical the Kremlin would support doping in 2014, as an attempt to maximize the medals won in their glorious time in the spotlight. They came in 4th in medals anyway. The U.S. came 3rd, Canada came 2nd (yes!), Norway came 1st (I blame cross-country skiing, it’s how they commute).
Anyway, apparently the Russians kept at the doping in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Although 167 Russian athletes were banned for doping, another 270 were cleared. The Paralympics banned Russia outright.
But the hammer has finally come down, and the Russians are out of the games for 2018. Russian athletes can still go if they get cleared for doping, and may be able to commit under the Russian flag, but this becomes very difficult for team-based sports (like hockey).
Of course, the Kremlin denies all of this, and says it is nothing more than anti-Russian politics.
“Most of the accusations are based on evidence which has not been proven and is largely unfounded,” said President Vladimir Putin. “It all looks like an entirely orchestrated and politically motivated decision. We see that – no doubt about it for me.”
The ex-KGB agent makes a good point. After all, a country caught sponsoring drug-enhancement of its athletes would immediately admit its fault once discovered, right? Right?
Putin isn’t entirely incorrect however. The Olympics, as much as we pretend otherwise, has been a vehicle in international politics many times. So this blog post is mostly going to a fun history lesson, going over the most interesting times countries were banned, boycotted, or abused the biggest sporting event in the world.
The first modern Summer Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. It didn’t take long for the problems to start.
The Olympics were planned to be held in Berlin. They got cancelled, because everybody started fighting World War I. Berlin was probably a bad choice.
1920 (Antwerp, Belgium)
All of the successor states of the Central Powers were banned from the games; Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, and Turkey. The IOC at that time was dominated by French representatives.
Germany was banned again.
Not only is Germany invited, but it’s hosting! The problem is, its NAZI GERMANY now. Although many countries considered boycotting the games, only Ireland and Spain did so. Ireland did it because they were upset that the IOC considered Northern Irish athletes as British citizens (so nothing to do with the Nazis).
Spain tried to set up its own rival Olympics, which got cancelled when the country slipped into civil war.
Germany did vet its athletes before-hand, and only one Jewish athlete, a fencer, was allowed on their team. The United States also pulled its Jewish athletes out of the games, though we don’t know why.
Tokyo Japan was supposed to host, but started fighting a way with China. When that started the IOC decided to move the games to Helsinki Finland, but they got invaded by the Soviet Union. If you’re confused, this is World War II. The IOC gave up until 1948.
Both West/East Germany and Japan were banned. The Soviet Union was invited but didn’t send anyone.
7 countries boycotted the games, for three different reasons.
Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon boycotted the games because the Suez Canal was invaded by a joint UK and French force.
Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland withdrew to protest the Soviet invasion of Hungary. In a water polo match between Hungary and the Soviets, the players and spectators became violent between the two nationalities (Hungary won the game).
China boycotted to protest the IOC allowing Taiwan to compete under the name “Formosa.”
Indonesia and North Korea boycotted the games after the IOC decided to ban teams competing in the rival “Games of the New Emerging Forces.” This is a case of “I quit before you can fire me!”
South Africa was banned due to Apartheid, and would not be allowed back until 1992.
A Palestinian terrorist group kidnaps and murders eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team.
Rhodesia was banned from the Olympics after several other African countries threatened to boycott, as Rhodesia was a white-minority ruled country
22 African countries, led by Tanzania, boycotted the games after the IOC refused to ban New Zealand. It was controversial as New Zealand had just completed a rugby tournament in South Africa, which was still enforcing Apartheid.
Canada initially tried to stop Taiwan from competing, as Canada did not recognize Taiwan as independent of China. This decision led other countries including the U.S. to threaten a boycott, which led Canada allowing Taiwan only if they did not compete under the name or flag of China.
China boycotted the games because Taiwan was allowed to compete.
Only 92 countries competed in these games, down from 121 in the previous one.
The U.S. decided to lead a boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As a result only 80 countries, even less than the previous, competed in these games.
A rival event called the Liberty Bell Classic was held in Philadelphia, where 29 nations competed.
1984 (Los Angeles)
The Soviet Union leads a boycott against the games, claiming there were security concerns. It was probably a response to being boycotted in 1980.
Romania, despite being in the Warsaw Pact, ignored the Soviet Union and went anyway, and received a standing ovation in the opening ceremonies.
The Soviet Union hosted its own games, called the Friendship Games.
1988 (Seoul, South Korea)
North Korea boycotts the games because they were held in South Korea, and they are technically still at war.
2006 (Turin, Italy)
The Austrian biathlon team is raided by Italian police on doping charges.
These Olympics lead with the most medals retroactively removed due to doping violations. Russia had the most taken away, with 14 medals stripped.
2014 (Sochi, Russia)
25 Russian athletes were disqualified and 11 medals stripped due to doping.
Another 29 medals were removed due to doping. Russia again leads the most retracted medals, with 13.
So that’s it! Your history lesson for the sometimes controversial Olympic games. A lot of countries have been banned over the years and even more have been boycotted, however none has been kicked out over doping. Considering how systemic the problem has been for Russia in the past few games, it looks like the IOC finally decided enough was enough.
As much as Putin wants to make this political… it doesn’t seem that way. This is the culmination of a 17-month investigation. Additionally, if the IOC was biased against Russia, why was Sochi awarded the games in 2014? Only 5 of the 17 members of the IOC’s board are from NATO countries.
At the end of the day, this doesn’t even hurt Russia in any material way. It is highly embarrassing, and throws an already isolated country into further alienation. But that leads back to the ancient maxim: cheaters never prosper.