The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has handed Russia a series of severe penalties after concluding an investigation into Russian sports which found a state-sponsored doping program has been operating.

Not only will Russia's athletes be barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics, the country’s government officials are also forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and the Russian anthem will not play. The Russian Olympic Committee was fined $15 million which will be put toward drug-testing international athletes and former Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was banned from the Olympics for life.

There was some respite offered with some clean Russian athletes allowed to compete under an Olympic flag. This will be by invitation only and subject to a rigorous testing program.

The investigation

The sanctions came after the IOC completed a prolonged investigation into Russia's history of sports doping, which has been in the headlines for some time.

The findings reiterated what had already been widely reported - that Russia had been running an extensive, state-backed doping program. The drug cheating program peaked in 2014 when the Winter Olympics were held in Sochi and government officials worked with secret agents to execute the scheme.

While announcing the decision, IOC president Thomas Bach accused Russia of “perpetrating an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.”

Putin's reaction

Russian President Vladimir Putin was not impressed with the ruling, calling the decision "totally scripted and politically motivated." However, he will not block Russian athletes that wish to attend under the Olympic flag.

Attention turns to FIFA

The IOC's findings may also have ramifications for Russia as hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. According to Tracey Holmes of ABC News, the decision the IOC took to ban Vitaly Mutko for life raises questions for FIFA to answer.

Mutko was the sports minister from 2008 to 2016 and the man in charge of the doping program at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He is currently the president of the Russian Football Association and in charge of organizing next year's FIFA World Cup in Russia.

For now, it seems it's business as usual for FIFA. Football's governing body issued a statement in which they said the organization had "taken note" of the IOC decision, adding "the decision has no impact on the preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as we continue to work to deliver the best possible event".

International tension

North Korea has yet to confirm whether it will send a team and the United States had been undecided until today on whether it would send a team due to neighboring North Korea's threat of war. Having just announced that a team will be sent, the United States are now focused on ensuring the safety of the venues for competitors according to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

The 2018 Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, take place from February 9-25. The most recent Olympics was in Rio, which while spectacular, has left Brazil with a mass of disused facilities and government debt.