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The IOC has reacted strongly to the “disgrace” of Russia cheating at the Sochi Winter Olympics, according to the Australian Olympic Committee.
The International Olympic Committee has banned athletes representing Russia in South Korea in February due to the country’s systemic doping, including manipulation of samples at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The doping regime led to the IOC stripping 11 Russian Sochi medallists of their honours, while 25 athletes were banned for life from the Olympics.
At an executive board meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday (AEDT), the IOC decided to allow some Russian athletes to compete as neutrals if clean.
Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman was confident the penalty would deter future doping by Russia.
“It’s a very strong statement by the IOC and an appropriate statement,” he said.
“I think what we saw in Sochi was clearly a disgrace … by the host nation and I am delighted that the IOC has come up with such a strong response.
“This is orchestrated cheating.”
Chesterman said he was shocked by the extent of Russia’s wrongdoing.
“There was a hole in the wall they were sliding test tubes between,” he said.
“That is just absolutely incredible that the host nation would orchestrate a situation where they would build a lab set up to cheat.”
Individual Russian athletes competing in February as neutrals will have proven they have no previous anti-doping violations and have undergone targeted testing, the IOC said.
They will be labelled “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)” and will compete in a uniform bearing that name.
Australia has a number of serious medal prospects for the Games, including Britt Cox, Matt Graham (moguls), Scotty James (snowboard halfpipe), Danielle Scott, Lydia Lassila, David Morris (aerial skiing), Alex Pullin and Belle Brockhoff (snowboard cross).
The absence of Russian competitors is unlikely to have much of an impact on Australian chances given the bulk of the country’s banned athletes in the past have competed in biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, skeleton and speed skating.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority issued a statement, declaring it “a historic moment for clean sport” while Australian Sports Commission deputy chair and Winter Olympics gold medallist Alisa Camplin-Warner said the IOC’s decision protected the “spirit of sport”.
Aerial skier David Morris, who’ll appear at his third Olympics in Pyeongchang, said the decision supports clean athletes and showed doping will never be tolerated.
But retired aerial skier Jacqui Cooper, a five-time Olympian who has sat on the World Anti-Doping Authority’s athletes committee, was hopeful no clean Russia athletes would be excluded.
“For Australians to win medals, I would think it would be not right and almost un-Olympic not to have the entire field there if the athletes are clean,” Cooper told AAP.
AOC president John Coates, who was no longer on the IOC’s executive board but still president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the body that will hear any Russian appeal, was unavailable for comment.