Banned From Winter Olympics, Russia Faces Greatest Sports Crisis Since Soviet Era
In Switzerland, Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, apologized “for violations of antidoping rules that were committed in our country,” though Russian officials have been steadfast that the problem was not systemic or sanctioned by the government. Mr. Zhukov was himself suspended on Tuesday.
President Vladimir V. Putin, the most important voice in the decision, was not heard from immediately. He had previously suggested that competing under anything other than the Russian flag would be “humiliating.”
Russia is expected to appeal.
There was also a political facet to it all, especially with Mr. Putin’s re-election campaign unrolling next February, as the games take place.
Some political analysts predicted that it would have no effect on Mr. Putin’s popularity — if anything it might increase his standing — as the president built his current popularity on the idea that he “brought Russia off its knees,” ending the perceived humiliations the West heaped on the ashes of the Soviet Union.
Other political analysts wondered whether the mounting scandals involving Russia might not begin to reverberate. There is the threat of new sanctions from the United States over election hacking, for example, as well as the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Moscow and a court case in the Netherlands over the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over Ukraine in 2014.
“There are too many fishy stories in the Kremlin’s relations with Europe and the U.S.,” said Aleksandr Morozov, a political analyst and frequent Kremlin critic, suggesting that the public would begin to trust the Kremlin less and Russia’s international reputation would further erode. “Moreover, the Kremlin does not want to investigate any of these scandals and publish its results, neither to its own society nor to the international community.”
State outlets like RT, the international television voice of the Russian government, went into overdrive attacking the international inquiry as an attempt to demean Russia, while ignoring questions about whether something was rotten in Russian sports. One of the main state broadcasters announced immediately that it would not show the games.