If you’ve ever watched the Olympics and thought, “This is good, but what if the athletes were exclusively Russian and any could be part of a massive, state-sponsored doping program,” then Vladimir Putin might have the answer for you.
Putin has ordered his government to organize a competition for Russian athletes banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, according to a report from AFP.
Per the report, these counter-Olympics are planned to be hosted at the same Sochi site that hosted the 2014 Games and Putin’s spokesman says winners will receive the same monetary compensation that Russia usually gives to its Olympic medalists.
This is in addition to the 169 Russian athletes approved by the IOC to take part in the PyeongChang Games as Olympic Athletes from Russia (in neutral uniforms without the Russian flag). While that number is down from the record 232 athletes that competed at Sochi in 2014, it’s not too far from the 177 that competed in Vancouver in 2010 and still represents the third-largest delegation in PyeongChang.
That group of 169 was selected by Russia out of 389 athletes cleared by the International Olympic Committee to take part in the games. However, some athletes have criticized who was and who was not cleared, with one calling it “a lottery.”
Russia has repeatedly denied allegations of a state-sponsored doping program used in past Olympics, accusing the United States of manipulating whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov. Evidence of such a program was still strong enough for the IOC to ban the Russian team from the 2018 Olympics in December.
While 389 athletes were eventually cleared to compete, vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyako noted that many of Russia’s top athletes did not make the list.
Now, it appears those athletes will be competing somewhere else.