During a teleconference with South Korean media, IOC President Thomas Bach said that the decision whether to allow Russian athletes to participate in this year’s Winter Olympics rests with the World’s Anti-Doping Agency's Independent Testing Authority (ITA).
"It is a very important step forward. I’m sure that a new generation of Russian athletes no history doping will take part in the Olympics in Pyeongchang. And the matter of partial or complete lifting of sanctions depends on Russia’s actions. Until the end of the Pyeongchang Olympics the sanctions can only be lifted if Russia respects the decisions made by IOC," he declared.
"We're in a historic situation. We have two divided states, which are technically at war because there is no peace treaty. Athletes from these two states are technically at war. They will join in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and send the message of peace," Bach said.
The IOC chief also insisted that sports alone are not enough to bring peace to the peninsula, but apparently refrained from delivering messages to South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"The Olympic Games and the IOC are not for sending a message to individual countries or individual political leaders. In the Olympic Movement, all 206 national Olympic committees are being treated equally," Bach claimed.
In 2015 WADA accused Moscow of committing multiple doping violations and suspended the Moscow laboratory of Russia’s National Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA. A year later head of WADA’s investigative team Richard McLaren produced a report claiming that Russia allegedly hosts an institutionalized doping program, which led to sanctions being imposed against Russian athletes.
A number of Russian athletes were also stripped of their medals won at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the Russian national Paralympic team was banned from the upcoming games.
In December 2017, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee ruled that only the Russian athletes who were deemed ‘clean’ would be allowed to compete in 2018 Games, and suspended the Russian National Olympic Committee over the alleged "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.
The decision based on the findings allegedly made by two commissions established by the IOC: the Disciplinary Commission chaired by Denis Oswald and the Inquiry Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid.
In response, Russian athletes who received a life ban by the IOC Disciplinary Commission from the Olympics have filed at least 42 appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with the final decision on each case expected by January 31.
The Russian Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission also said it would support the Russian athletes who want to compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics.