After the IOC’s landmark decision to ban Russia outright from the 2018 Olympics, but still allow individual athletes to compete under the Olympic flag if they pass IOC drug tests, the IOC today announced that members of Russia’s women’s team at the 2014 Sochi Games failed their tests, and are thus banned for life from the Olympics.
The six players – Inna Dyubanok, Yekaterina Lebedeva, Yekaterina Pashkevich, Anna Shibanova, Yekaterina Smolentseva and Galina Skiba – were officially found to have failed their drug tests, and thus have subsequently been banned from any future Olympic participation. While the remainder of the team’s status is yet to be determined (although one player, Anna Shukina, has been cleared), the decision already means that Russia’s finish at the Sochi Games, where they finished sixth, now counts as a disqualification and is null and void in the official record books. The Russian Hockey Federation has unsurprisingly denied the findings, and has vowed to challenge them.
UPDATE: As of 22 December, two additional players, Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina, have been banned, bringing the total number of banned women’s players to eight.
UPDATE #2: On 1 February, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned bans on 28 Russian athletes, clearing Lebedeva, Burina, Pashkevich, Shukina and Smolentseva of wrongdoing, while still maintaining a ban for Skiba, Shibanova and Dyubanok, but now the ban is only for the 2018 Games, not for life. However, the FHR has confirmed already that the Russian women’s roster for PyeongChang will not be changing.
While this doesn’t impact any medal standings, what it does implicate is Russia’s standing both for the 2018 Games and any future World Championships, as Olympic results count towards the IIHF World Ranking totals. How the IIHF chooses to tally this is yet to be determined, but if their 2014 result were to be wiped from the standings of the current Olympics or next year’s World Championships, for example, Russia’s point total would fall to 2710, dropping them from fourth globally to tenth, which would put them out of automatic qualification for the Olympics and only making the Worlds by virtue of the tournament expanding in 2019. Their participation in World Championships since Sochi, and in particular their Bronze medal in 2013, could also be in question.
The remaining test results are still pending, but Russian participation, even as the neutral “Olympic Athletes From Russia” team, could still be in question for PyeongChang, either because of an outright IIHF ban, or just by virtue of available players, as more members of the women’s team are expected to be banned when the test results come in, meaning that an almost brand new roster may be difficult to field with just two months notice. And while players can be invited to compete under the OAR banner, the IIHF may strip the Russian team of their participation based on their stricken record from Sochi.
We will keep close to this story as it develops, but another major chip has fallen in this controversial story so close to the Games.