Russians can compete at Olympics, but without flag — IOC

Zubkov leads his country's contingent during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

The door was left open, however, for Russians to compete as an "Olympic Athlete of Russia" as long as they satisfy strict conditions that show they have a doping-free background.

The report by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and two subsequent International Olympic Committee investigations came amid mounting evidence indicating that the doping scheme involved senior government officials, including from the sports ministry, with help from secret agents. He also suggested the move was political, and that Moscow was partly to blame for providing the IOC with a convenient pretext to ban its Olympic team.

The top Russian with hopes of competing as a neutral is Nikita Tregubov, who won a silver medal in a World Cup race November 25 and dedicated it to his banned teammates. The South Korean-born skating legend, is an eight-time gold medalist who obtained Russian citizenship in 2011, after a public falling out with South Korea's skating union.

These Olympians will participate under the name "Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)".

She said: "For most athletes the Olympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".

There are already 25 Russian athletes who have been retroactively disqualified and more are expected to be banned.

The games will not be broadcast in the country because of the absence of a Russian national team. International Olympic Committee bans on skiers from Sochi will weaken Russia's strength in depth for relay events, which make up one-third of the program.

Travis Tygart CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said: "Over the past three years, a high stakes game of chicken has been played between those willing to sacrifice the Olympic ideals by employing a state-directed doping program to cheat to win and, on the other side, athletes unwilling to stand silent while their hopes and dreams were stolen and the Olympic Games hijacked".

Russian athletes competing under the Olympic Flag will be evaluated by the Independent Testing Authority (ITA).

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"The facts are that in Russian Federation there was systemic manipulation of doping and the anti-doping system. that also took place at Sochi 2014", added Schmid.

"Throughout history, there were so many things we had to endure from our 'partners, ' " Zakharova said.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian parliament's upper house, said the ruling is "clearly part of the West's policy to restrain Russia".

Ivan Melnikov, First Deputy Speaker in Russia's parliament on Tuesday called the ban "unthinkably harsh", the news agency Interfax reported.

Rossiskaya Gazeta, the Russian government newspaper, took a strong stance against the decision, claiming that the IOC has "broken" the Olympic rings, the main symbol of sport.

The Canadian Olympic Committee told the IOC in October to impose "immediate and meaningful sanctions" on Russian Federation.

A separate panel will determine the eligibility of Russian athletes at Pyeongchang 2018.

"The final decision of course must be made by the Olympic team", he said.

It is now likely that a number of Russian champion athletes will compete. "You are not going to feel comfortable." he said.

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