This morning the IOC announced the disqualification of four Russian skeleton sliders from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. In the process Russia lost 2 more medals from Sochi – gold in the men’s (Aleksandr Tretyakov) and bronze in the women’s (Yelena Nikitina). The Russians had previously had 6 cross-country skiers disqualified from Sochi and lost 4 medals in the process.
Multiple tweets have appeared since stating that the US now moves up to the top of the Sochi medal table. Other tweets have said that USA slider Katie Uehlander will now move up to a bronze medal in women’s skeleton, and that Latvia’s sliding brothers, Martins and Tomass Dukurs, will move up to gold and bronze medals and become the 7th siblings to be “on the podium” in an individual Winter Olympic event.
As Lee Corso likes to say on College GameDay, “Not so fast, my friends.” It’s way more complex than all that.
First of all, it is true that 10 Russians have been tentatively disqualified from Sochi, and if the disqualifications stand, they have lost 6 medals – 2 gold, 3 silvers, and a bronze. However, several of the athletes have already appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and that process will take months. So it is possible several of the DQs could be reversed, although I personally doubt that.
Secondly, if the disqualifications stand, medals could be upgraded but that also takes time and review by the IOC. It is not automatic. Katie Uehlander could move up to a bronze medal, that is true, but the process needs to run its course.
Thirdly, in one sense, as of today, the US is now on top of the Sochi medal table, but in another sense, Russia still leads the Sochi medal table. How’s that again?
There are two systems for ranking national medals – the US or North American system that ranks by medals, gold, silver, and bronze; and the European or International system that ranks by gold, silver, and bronze. By the US/NA system, as of today, the USA does lead the Sochi medal table, but by the Euro/Inter. system Russia still leads the Sochi medal table today.
Here is the original Sochi medal table on 23 February 2014, the last day of the 2014 Winter Olympics, with Russia leading the table by either ranking system. The USA is in second by the US system, and Norway is in second by the International system, with the USA 4th in that system, still trailing Canada.
Assuming all the disqualifications are upheld, here is what the Sochi medal table looks like today. By the US system, the USA is #1, followed by Russia, despite losing 6 medals, and Norway in 3rd. By the International system, there is no actual change in the rankings with Russia still #1, with Norway 2nd, Canada 3rd, and the USA 4th.
Now you ask, what happens if all the medals are re-allocated, by moving up the 4th place finisher to 3rd and a bronze medal, etc.? I hate to go there, but will do so, just because you’re such nice guys. Here is what the current “possible” rankings will look like if this occurs, and I am moving up everybody, although I doubt that will actually happen.
Norway now leads by the USA system, with the USA 2nd, and Russia 3rd. By the international system, Russia still leads the Sochi medal table, with Norway 2nd, Canada 3rd, and the USA 4th – no change from the original standings.
It is unlikely this will happen that way in every case, so this is an idealized situation. For this to occur, the 3rd-place finisher in the 50 km cross-country would move up to a gold medal, but that is another Russian, Ilya Chernousov. I doubt he will be moved up, given the opprobrium surrounding the Russian team in Sochi. If he is not advanced, then Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who originally finished 4th in that event, cannot move up to the silver medal.
And to further complicate matters, Sundby had a doping violation revealed in January 2015, and after appeals, was banned from sport for 2 months (it was only an asthma inhaler) in July 2016, after an appeal to CAS. It is unlikely the IOC would move up an athlete since disqualified for doping.
So there you have it. Much more complicated than you might think. And there is certainly more to come.