Russia close to avoiding winter Olympics ban as IOC prepares to impose huge fine
Russia is expected to escape a ban from next year's Winter Olympics and instead is close to being handed a large fine for its endemic doping, Press Association Sport can reveal.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is understood to be close to issuing what has been described as an "F1-style" fine, sum similar to the 100million US dollars sanction (£49.3million at the time) imposed on McLaren in 2007 for spying on Ferrari.
That would be imposed as an alternative to excluding Russia from February's Games.
Senior anti-doping officials have told Press Association Sport they believe the IOC and Russia have already agreed the terms of the sanction, including the wording of an apology to be made by a senior Russian official in order to lift the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) suspension of the Russian anti-doping agency.
Speaking in London last week, IOC president Thomas Bach said the issue of Russia's punishment was in the hands of two commissions he set up last December and he hoped a decision would be reached soon.
Bach also stressed the decision by athletics' world governing body, the IAAF, to suspend the Russian athletics federation in 2015 was "special" because the IAAF was the only international body found to have "colluded" with Russia in its doping programme.
This was a reference to the role said to have been played by former IAAF president Lamine Diack and a tight-knit group of insiders who allegedly helped hide Russian positives in return for money.
However, the International Paralympic Committee took the same stance as the IAAF before last year's Rio Games, and anti-doping campaigners and athletes' groups have been calling for the IOC to take a much tougher line with Russia at PyeongChang 2018 than it took before Rio 2016.
Two independent investigations funded by WADA have revealed the extent of Russia's cheating since 2011, with the most shocking example being the country's sabotage of the anti-doping laboratory at the 2014 Winter Games on home territory in Sochi.
According to Professor Richard McLaren's report, the Russian anti-doping authorities - together with the sports ministry, Russian Olympic Committee and Russian secret service - collected clean samples from athletes which were then swapped through a hole in the Sochi lab wall for dirty ones, enabling Russian athletes to dope throughout the event.
Russia topped the medal tables at the both the Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, winning almost half the gold medals available at the latter.
Athletes around the world have been waiting for these results to be revised, particularly after McLaren found forensic evidence that the Russian winners of four Olympic golds and a silver had returned urine samples with "physiologically impossible" levels of salt, and there were 44 samples from 12 Russian medal winners that showed signs of tampering.
One possible stumbling block to the financial sanction being imposed, however, is the documentary 'Icarus', which reveals new details of Russia's doping scam from the man at the centre of it - the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who is now in the United States witness protection scheme.
Some anti-doping experts hope the film, released on Netflix on Friday, could help spread the story of Russia's cheating much more widely than the mainstream sports media has been able to so far, creating a global clamour for a much stronger penalty.
Speaking to Press Association Sport, the film's director Bryan Fogel said: "The Olympics stand on this moral high ground - that's what they've sold to us and why we tune in, mankind at its best.
"But then you get this spectacular and unimaginable fraud. And not just in Sochi but throughout history.
"What did (the IOC) do? They put their head in the sand and passed the buck. They have shown only cowardice and failed to back anybody who was trying to live up to those ideals and compete fairly.
"You have (Bach) at the Sochi Games telling athletes to 'play fair, be clean, be true' and then they are presented with what happened but they can't reach logical conclusion that the punishment must fit the crime.
"There is so much money and politics involved. They took every action to protect themselves without any regard for the integrity of athletes."