GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Russia’s imminent return from a doping suspension won’t be derailed because its hockey players sang their national anthem, the International Olympic Committee said Monday.
The Russian men’s team defied IOC rules by belting out the anthem at their medal ceremony following Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Germany in the gold-medal game. Russian fans at the match also sang along.
“We understand that this was over excitement by the athletes who had just won a gold medal in extraordinary circumstances,” the IOC said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press.
Players on the Russian team said they agreed before the game that they would sing the anthem.
The IOC suspended Russia’s membership in December over a doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics, but allowed 168 Russians to enter the Pyeongchang Olympics as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” in neutral uniforms.
They had to sign a document agreeing not to display any national symbols or protest the restrictions. The Olympic anthem played when Russians won gold.
The IOC voted against reinstating Russia in time for the closing ceremony Sunday, which would have allowed Russian athletes to march under their national flag. The Russian delegation had stockpiled uniforms with the Russian flag in preparation.
However, the IOC decided that Russia will be reinstated if no more of its athletes fail drug tests from the Pyeongchang Games. Russia produced two of the four doping cases announced so far.
Testing of samples taken from Russians in Pyeongchang is nearing its end, and Russian IOC member Shamil Tarpishchev told the state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday that reinstatement could come as soon as Tuesday.
The IOC’s ruling brought sharp criticism from an alliance of national anti-doping agencies, iNADO.
“It has taken two positive tests on Russian athletes to force the IOC’s hand when its clear intention had been to readmit the ROC before the closing of the Pyeongchang Games,” iNADO said in a statement.
“The disappointing fact that this is another short-lived, negotiated deal, to be lifted promptly within the next few days, indicates the IOC’s management of this issue has gone from bad to worse.”
The two Russians who tested positive in Pyeongchang so far are curler Alexander Krushelnitsky, who was stripped of his bronze medal, and the bobsled pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva. Both accepted a disqualification.