Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics over doping concerns
Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics after a prolonged doping scandal, although the International Olympic Committee said some Russian athletes would be able to compete "under strict conditions".
The IOC announced the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Tuesday after examining evidence of state-sponsored doping over several years that came to a head at the Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
In a news conference, the IOC said that a 17-month investigation headed up by Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland, had confirmed "the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia".
"The results are not based only on [Russia's former anti-doping chief-turned-whistleblower] Grigoory Rodchenkov's testimony. There is scientific evidence, witness statements documents and correspondence,” Schmid told journalists.
Nations have in the past been barred from taking part in the Olympics, notably South Africa during the apartheid years, but none has ever been handed a blanket suspension over doping.
"This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," said IOC president Thomas Bach in a statement.
"The IOC... 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 WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency]."
The IOC also decided to suspend ROC president Alexander Zhukov as an IOC member given that his membership is linked to his position as chief of the ROC.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was also banned from any future participation at the Olympic Games, due to his involvement in the scandal - he was the Russian Sports Minister during the Sochi Games.
That will raise questions as to whether Mutko can continue in his role as head of the organising committee for the 2018 football World Cup, which Russia will host.
Certain Russian athletes will still be able to take part in the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the IOC said, as independent competitors. However, that will be by invitation only and dependent on a stringent testing programme.
"The IOC, at its absolute discretion, will ultimately determine the athletes to be invited from the list," said the IOC's statement, ruling out all those to have previously committed a doping violation.
Many Russian sporting figures were outraged by the decision, with the president of Russia's Bobsleigh Federation, Alexander Zubkov, telling Russian television: "This is humiliation. This is a punch in the stomach."
Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, told R-Sport agency: “The IOC decision is offensive and insulting. It is completely unjustified. I consider that this decision will deal a great blow to the whole Olympic movement.”
Alexei Kurashov, president of the Russian freestyle wrestling federation, added: "I can’t say that the decision shocked me. The Olympic movement has discredited itself and there will be fundamental consequences to this.
"These are not the principles of Olympism. I can’t say that the activities of the IOC are honest.”
However, the US Olympic Committee praised the IOC's announcement.
"The IOC took a strong and principled decision. There were no perfect options, but this decision will clearly make it less likely that this ever happens again," it said.
Those athletes who do go to the Games, which start on February 9, will participate under the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia".
They will compete with a uniform carrying that name, while the Olympic anthem - and not the Russian one - will be played at any medal ceremony.
The IOC's decision comes just days after the draw for next year's World Cup, which Moscow hopes will elevate the nation's status as a sporting superpower.
Russia have been stripped of 11 of their 33 Sochi medals for cheating, meaning they have lost their position at the top of the medals table to Norway.
Last month, athletics' ruling body the International Association of Athletics Federations also maintained its two-year suspension of Russia from the sport, imposed over doping claims.