The Russian spirit at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games has been indomitable, in the light of political adversity. The team was forbidden from playing as the Russian team in its own national colors because of the IOC’s decision to bar Russia (as such) from participation following a doping scandal.
The Russian anthem and Russian national symbols were also banned from the games. Instead, Russian athletes winning gold had to listen to the official Olympic anthem. Yet, after an incredible victory in hockey, the Russian team could not, and did not want, to restrain themselves.
The Games this time around were supposed to at least show a clean record for the Russian team all the way through, but there was still an incident or two where an athlete tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The first person so discovered was Alexander Krushelnitskiy, one of the Russian “OAR” team members who was in the curling event. While this finding is in dispute, it tarnished the otherwise clean record of the OAR athletes. Towards the end of the Games, a second athlete, Nadezhda Sergeeva, a bobsledder, also was reported as testing positive for a banned substance. This test is unconfirmed, and the Russian team was forthright about it, so the IOC did not keep Russia under the ban. However the ban was to be lifted only after the completion of the Games, which meant that Russia could not assemble in the final ceremonies under its own flag and with its own uniforms.
Krushelnitsky and his curling team did end up relinquishing their bronze medal that was won in their curling competition, and this after Krushelnitsky dropped his appeal. While this action was taken as an admission of guilt, Krushelnitsky did not specifically admit to using a doping compound.
The Russian team has been overshadowed in two ways – first, due to years of doping that was sanctioned by the Soviet government during that time, and after the fall of Communism, apparently the old habit was hard to kill.
Russia is not the only nation that dopes its athletes, of course, but the reputation from the Communist years got even harder to throw off with the misinformation campaign regarding President Vladimir Putin and the era of new nationalism in Russia.
Even more recent offshoots of that drama, such as the rejoining of Crimea to the Russian Federation and the sanctions dramas over this, Ukraine and the 2016 US Election, all created a need for the Russian Federation to be on the up and up about everything.
What is good is that the team that competed this time around was pretty much steroid-free and Russia still did quite well in the Games overall. This is what must have been on the players’ minds and hearts when they won a dramatic 4-3 victory over Germany in the Hockey competition. The victory was one that really lifted the spirits of many in Russia and of course, the team was exuberant. What else could they do but to sing their national anthem?
According to the deal set by the IOC, Russia is now free to compete under its flag again, and one can be quite sure that they will probably be one of the cleanest teams in sports, especially because of the need to deflect bad press.