New Delhi: In a historic decision, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has barred Russian Olympic Committee from 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang for “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system”. The decision came after an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Games hosted by Russia in Sochi. IOC has also ordered Russia to pay $15m in costs.

IOC president Thomas Bach and his board took the decision after reading through the findings and recommendations of a 17-month investigation headed up by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid.

However, Russian athletes who can prove they are clean would be allowed to compete in South Korea under the neutral flag “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)”.

Earlier, on November 26, athletics’ ruling body the IAAF maintained its two-year long suspension of Russia imposed over claims of state-sponsored doping.

That ban prevented its athletes from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics and this year’s World Championships in London. The IAAF ruling followed the World Anti-Doping Agency announcement on November 16 that Russia was still not compliant with international rules on doping.

WADA’s refusal to lift the suspension of Moscow’s national anti-doping body raised the stakes in Russia’s possible exclusion from South Korea.

Russia’s chances of going to Pyeongchang were further damaged by a raft of bans handed out to its medallists at the Sochi 2014 Games in the past week. In total Russia was stripped of 11 of its 33 medals for cheating, meaning it has lost its position at the top of the Sochi medals table to Norway.

The explosive, WADA-commissioned 2016 McLaren report alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia and saw the country shut out of the agency. The investigation said the cheating peaked at the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russian secret agents engineered an elaborate system of state-backed doping.

Among those named and shamed for drug-taking last month was Russia’s flag carrier at the Games, Alexander Zubkov, who was stripped of his four and two-man bobsleigh titles.

A Russia ban would have a major impact on competition in Pyeongchang, notably in disciplines like figure skating, cross-country skiing, speed skating and bobsleigh. (With PTI inputs)