UPDATE — 12/8, 4:14 p.m. EST: UK-based data analyst Ben Nimmo told Reuters recently that online backlash to the news Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics is being driven in large part by automated programs.
Using the hashtag “NoRussiaNoGames”, Nimmo says the number of tweets protesting the decision more than quintupled following IOC’s announcement.
Russian state-sponsored media outlets such as Sputnik and RT have since reported on the “viral” online campaign, which has been perpetuated by such Twitter accounts as @ungestum and @03_ppm — both identified as generating at least some automated activity.
Just 65 days ahead of the opening of the XXIII Winter Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has ruled the Russian Federation is prohibited from entering a team in the February 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Tuesday ruling by the IOC came after a confidential report outlined numerous violations regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs by Russian athletes competing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Based on the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) investigation into Russian double-dealing at Sochi, an investigation led by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid detailed a ploy to cover-up the scandal and found evidence suggesting involvement of Russian government officials in the scheme to hide cheating.
Russia was stripped of 11 medals previously awarded to its competitors at Sochi as a result of the scandal and investigations.
Announcing the decision, IOC president Thomas Bach charged Russia with “perpetrating an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.”
“The IOC Executive Board today studied and discussed the findings of the Commission . . . addressing the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia. This report also addresses in particular the manipulation at the anti-doping laboratory at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 which targeted the Olympic Games directly,” read a statement from the IOC.
Following the 2014 games in Sochi, two IOC probes and a third inquiry led by WADA concluded Russian athletes engaged in an elaborate ruse to use performance enhancing drugs and evade detection with the aid of Russian officials.
The strictest penalty ever imposed on a nation for doping, the IOC’s decision means no Russian athlete will be permitted to compete in the Pyeongchang games under the Russian flag and Russian officials are barred from attending the event.
In a harsh step, the IOC permanently banned Vitaly Mutko, a current Russian deputy prime minister and his former deputy at the Russian Ministry of Sport, Yury Nagornykh, from any participation in all future Olympic Games.
Alexander Zhukov, who is the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was suspended.
A last-minute attempt to compromise and allow drug-free Russian athletes to compete was approved, but Russian competitors are prohibited from wearing their country’s uniform, and the Russian national anthem will not be played.
Instead, Russian athletes will be classified as “neutral” competitors at the games, a move Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee leader Konstantin Kosachyov labeled Wednesday as “the West’s overall policy of holding Russia back.”
“They are targeting our national honor . . . our reputation . . . and our interests. (The West) bought out the traitors . . . and orchestrated media hysteria,” he continued.
Editor’s note: This article was corrected and updated @ 11:38 a.m. EST.
[TASS] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via SB Nation]