The IOC announced its decision today on Russian athletes for the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games. They have suspended the Russian Olympic Committee from any influence on the games, but will allow clean Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag itself.
It’s unclear exactly what that means for the Russian hockey players, as they would need to play on a neutral team instead of for their country. The KHL has warned that they will potentially pull out entirely if a decision like this was made. The decision to pull all KHL players out would affect every country attending, and likely mean that both Hockey Canada and USA Hockey would need to turn to younger players to fill out the roster.
The IOC based its decision on the Schmid Commission which looked into “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia” and found there was widespread corruption when it came to doping for Russian athletes in Sochi 2014.
In 1992, the men’s hockey event was won by a “Unified Team” of the countries which made up the former Soviet Union. They played under the Olympic flag, and took home the gold medal over Canada. That team included familiar names like Sergei Zubov, Alex Zhamnov, Dmitry Yushkevich, Alex Kovalev and others. It seems unlikely that a similar Russian team would play under the Olympic flag this time around. If they did, they would be known as “OAR” or “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”
Bob McKenzie of TSN spoke with IIHF President Rene Fasel, who will wait “24 to 48 hours to see where things are at.” The IIHF will likely wait for the KHL to make a decision before commenting on how this ruling will affect the Olympic hockey tournament, both for men and women.