Russian Athletes at Winter Olympics: From Doping Tests to 'Most Stylish Award'

© AFP 2023 / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEVOlympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) parade during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018
Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) parade during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018 - Sputnik International
Despite the fact that only the Russian team out of the 90 countries participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics was not allowed to march under its national flag, Russian athletes have been greeted with all due respect in South Korea, with many cheering on the team. Nevertheless, the IOC has announced there will be more rigorous doping tests to come.

IOC: Russian Athletes as ‘High Risk Group’

Richard Budgett, Medical and Scientific Director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has revealed details on further doping tests, claiming that the Olympic Athletes from Russia are “clean,” but remained in a “high risk group.”

"The Olympic Athletes from Russia obviously were a major focus for both the pre-Games taskforce and now at the Games. And so we can be confident that the Olympic Athletes from Russia are clean. But obviously because of the history we have to have great vigilance. Clearly there's a history of doping in Russian athletes so they're in a high-risk group," Budgett said. "In the pre-Games testing… they've been tested far more than any other athletes."

They have already been rigorously tested for doping, and there will be about 2,500 more tests at the Winter Olympics.

"The test distribution plan… is for around 2,500 tests, with over 1,400 of these being out-of-competition and just over 1,000 in-competition," Budgett said at a press conference, streamed by the IOC.

South Korea’s Warm Welcome

During the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, the viewers at the stadium were excited to see the Russian athletes, who have been through a lot in recent years. Media outlets have reported that after the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” were announced in Korean, French and English, the stadium burst into delight, spurring much buzz across the place.

READ MORE: Russian Athletes' Actions, Comments to Be Analyzed by IOC — Spokesman

Earlier in February, dozens of fans, both South Korean and Russian, greeted the Russian hockey team at Incheon airport in South Korea. They were dressed in traditional South Korean hanbok and Russian sarafans, waiving Russian flags and chanting “Russia!” as a sign of support for the team. Ilya Kovalchuk, Russian international ice-hockey player, confessed that he was deeply touched by such a warm welcome.

‘The Olympics Is [sic] For All’

Still the Russian Athletes have received much support in Pyeongchang even from the United States: a young American Filip Vachuda showed a gesture of solidarity by waving Russia’s tricolor during the opening ceremony as the team walked by under a neutral flag.

READ MORE: IOC Discriminates Against Russian Athletes — Former French Swimmer

Later, the man explained that he didn’t know much about the doping scandal, but heard that the Russian team had to “compete as neutrals,” therefore he decided to show support for them and unfold a white, blue and red Russian flag.

“I was kind of trying to help them feel at home and send a message that they should be included because the Olympics is [sic] for all countries,” Vachuda said.

He also added that he considered the IOC’s decision  “collective punishment,” which he did not approve of.

“It’s not like I’m saying that doping doesn’t exist or anything, I’m just trying to say that athletes who are clean should have the right to represent their country.”

First Medals and Other Remarkable Achievements

While Figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva set a new world record, having scored 81.06 in the short program in team competition…

…Russian short track speed skater Semion Elistratov won bronze medal in the 1,500-meter race, having covered the distance in two minutes and 10.687 seconds, thus bringing the first award for the team of “Olympic Athletes From Russia” at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

“You Can’t Call Them ‘Russia,’ But You Can Call Them Stylish”

The Wall Street Journal has called the Russian team one of the most stylish in Pyeongchang, saying that “the Russians look really good.” Their outfits, consisting of grey jackets and jeans with white scarves and seamed caps, were dubbed “unpretentious, easygoing, not trying too hard.”

"Given all the pre-Games madness, OAR could have just given up on the clothes, wandered out there in sweatpants and a backwards baseball cap. But they’ve made an effort, and they could win the style competition at the Winter Olympics," Jason Gay, the author of the article, wrote.

The Russian team has been allowed to compete at the 2018 Winter Games, provided it  performs under a neutral flag, following the so-called doping scandal. The alleged doping use by Russian athletes was first brought to light in 2015, when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accused Moscow of numerous violations.

A member of a South Korean conservative civic group burns a North Korean national flag during a protest opposing North Korea's participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in Seoul, South Korea, January 22, 2018 - Sputnik International
About 800 People Protesting in Seoul Against N Korea's Participation in Olympics

The WADA investigation continued on into the next year when a Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren released a two-part report highlighting a state-sponsored doping system in Russia. The first part of the report was published in July 2016, but still allowed Russians to take part in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

READ MORE: Most Beautiful Russian Female Athletes at 2018 Winter Olympics

However, the second part, unveiled later that same year, prompted a massive backlash against Russian athletes, with the IOC opening numerous investigations and the Russian Olympic Committee being immediately suspended from the Pyeongchang Olympics. A number of senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have refuted the allegation of a state-run scheme, but admitted the existence of doping problems in Russian athletics.

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