Though Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics due to systematic, state-sponsored doping, you'll still find 169 Russians on the slopes and rinks at the PyeongChang Games. The International Olympic Committee allowed the athletes to participate after they successfully went through rigorous drug testing. But the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR for short) aren't just participating—they're medaling. As of February 13, OAR have earned a silver medal for team figure skating, as well as four bronze medals in short track speed skating, curling, and cross-country skiing.
The medal bounty represents a change from the results Independent Olympians have seen in the past. Historically, athletes not competing for specific countries haven’t done so well—but in 1992, their chances were better than usual due to sheer numbers. The number of Independent Olympians is usually 10 or fewer, but due to the separation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 58 competitors were considered “Independent” at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Three of them won medals in shooting—one silver and two bronze. (The 2012 delegation should have medaled just for their enthusiasm during the Parade of Nations.)
So what happens when you're a country-less athlete? Well, none of the medals won this year by OAR will count toward Russia's overall medal totals. And when they actually hit the podium, the athletes stand under the Olympic flag instead of a country flag. Similarly, the song that plays is the official Olympic Anthem, not their national anthem. And while other athletes don athleisure emblazoned with the colors and symbols of their countries, OAR has been relegated to wearing neutral clothing.
In past years, Olympic athletes who are unable to represent their countries due to international sanctions or political transition have competed as “Independent Olympians." But there are none listed on the official Olympics site for the PyeongChang Games. Also missing this year: the Refugee Olympic Team, which was founded last year for 10 refugee athletes originally from Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.