Russia will hold its own version of the Winter Olympics for its banned athletes

Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

As they did in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, Russia will hold alternative competitions for its own athletes who were banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Russia’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, referred to the banning of various Russian athletes as being due to “a spurious pretext, because of a vociferous political campaign unleashed against our country.”

Officially, the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from this year’s Olympic Games as a country due to widespread doping violations, but allowed various athletes from Russia to compete, though their medals will not be applied to the official count for Russia. Many athletes applied, and many were rejected. Those that were not have been competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

“In order to preserve our potential in winter sports, support athletes and give them a chance to fulfill themselves, an order [of the Russian government] was signed that determines five sports: skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, short track and speed skating in which almost all [Russian athletes] were not admitted [to the Games],” Mutko said.

The competition will be held after the proper Olympics, and will take place over “several weeks.” There really isn’t much information out there about how well the 2016 iteration of this event went, or how this decision potentially impacts the television audience of the Pyeongchang Olympics, given Russia has one of the largest TV audiences for the event in a typical year.

Mutko said that many athletes who were banned for the Olympics have not been punished by their individual sports, saying that they are “regarded by another sports community as normal, clean athletes.” He suggested that the Olympic committee’s ruling is “unique and new.”

Russia is typically a force in the Winter Olympics. Thus far, the Olympic Athletes from Russia have one silver and one bronze medal.