Dear Crabby, What’s the Deal with the Russian Olympic Uniforms?

Dear Crabby,

Normally, I can’t tell the difference between a luge and a skeleton. But every four years, thanks to the Winter Olympics, I become an expert (like most Americans). But I admit to being a little confused when it comes to the Russian Olympic team this time around. I thought they weren’t allowed to compete and yet there they were at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony last Friday. Do you know what’s going on?


Sam Speed


Dear Sam Speed,

So, you noticed that too, eh? OK. Here’s the story: The International Olympic Committee barred Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Let that sink in for a moment while I continue explaining. They can’t compete because of a doping scandal that goes back to the last Olympics, which were in … wait for it … Sochi, Russia. I know. I wasn’t too shocked either. Of course, Russia is saying, ‘Who, us?’ Now supposedly, there were some athletes (around 170) who were considered clean enough and were given the green light to participate. Score one for Russia, right? Eh, sort of.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

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While they can compete, they cannot do so under the Russian flag, which is why they were walking with the Olympic flag during the opening. It’s also why they’ll be referred to as ‘OAR’ – Olympic Athletes from Russia. If that’s not enough, they aren’t allowed to wear anything with Russia’s colors or logos, which means the gear they already had and couldn’t get switched out in time will now be sporting various styles of duct tape so they can comply and compete. Even t-shirts underneath uniforms have to be generic. But wait. It gets better. Should an athlete find himself or herself on a podium receiving a gold medal, they won’t hear the familiar strains of the Russian national anthem nor watch their flag rise to the rafters. Nope. The Olympic theme will be played instead, and that flag will be used. And any medals they win won’t get counted in the history books.

So why compete? I guess one reason is not wanting all those long hours of training to go to waste. And even though we may not share their ideals, it is a matter of national pride for them. But even though the athletes have to play it neutral, their fans do not. In fact, Russian supporters at events are making sure the homeland’s flag and colors are well represented. During the team figure skating competition at Gangneung Ice Arena it was hard to miss the large Russian fan section that was wildly waving flags and wearing t-shirts that spelled out ‘Russia In My Heart.’ Now I’m sure a lot of people don’t even think they should be there at all. Makes me think about the infamous Black Sox scandal involving the 1919 World Series (not that I was around back then, mind you). Eight Chicago White Sox players (including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson) were accused of intentionally losing games. Even though they were eventually acquitted, they were banned for life from baseball. Imagine what any of them would have done if given a second chance? I bet even if people still believed they had done it, the players still would have shown up to play the game they loved so much. So, I guess that’s kind of what it’s like for these Russian athletes competing. They know most people think they’re ‘dirty,’ but they’ve still came anyway, knowing that their identities would be basically stripped away. Wonder how many other athletes would do the same? Just something to think about.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the Olympics and remember – don’t try any of what you see on TV at home.


Dear Crabby

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