The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the 2018 winter Olympics over its state-sponsored doping programme.
It comes just 65 days ahead of the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) released an explosive report saying that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug cheating programme which peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Two subsequent IOC investigations confirmed the allegations.
The report indicated that the scheme involved senior government officials, including the sports ministry, with help from secret state agents.
The sanction, which is the toughest ever leveled by the IOC for doping, was announced on Tuesday by the committee’s president, Thomas Bach.
He accused Russia of “perpetrating an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport”.
The IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and its chief Alexander Zhukov.
A lifetime ban was also given to Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko who was sports minister during the Sochi Games.
Mutko is currently the head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee which Russia is hosting.
It is unclear if this ban would affect his current position as FIFA has grown very intolerant to such scandals.
In a statement, FIFA said it has “taken note” of the IOC decision. It reiterated that the decision had “no impact on the preparations” for Russia 2018.
Mr. Bach, however, announced that the ban would not affect clean Russian athletes who will be allowed to compete in the games under an Olympic flag although it will be by invitation only and dependent on a stringent testing programme.
No Russian athlete with a previous doping violation will be allowed to compete and no official who had a leadership role at Sochi 2014 will be invited to the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The United States Olympic Committee praised the IOC’s “strong and principled decision”.
Former Russian laboratory chief and whistleblower who revealed the cheating scheme lauded the IOC’s action saying it was a needed step to clean up the Olympic movement.
“It was the most elaborate and sophisticated doping system in the history of sports. If it did not carry the most significant sanction it would simply have emboldened Russia and other countries who don’t respect the rules”, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, told reporters.