(KMSP) - The Winter Olympics begin in about two months and one of the world's biggest sporting powers will not be there after the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from competing due to the country's widespread doping program.
A former Olympian from Minnesota says the move may be unprecedented, but it isn't a complete surprise.
As a member of the U.S. Women's National Hockey team, Natalie Darwitz won two silver medals and one bronze in the Olympics.
She says next year’s games will be without a major player from the international competitions of the past.
"You always had grumblings that some people were doing it, but for them to ban a whole country, it’s a pretty clear statement that enough is enough and we are going to compete clean," said Darwitz.
The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from competing in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea because of widespread state-sponsored doping in Sochi four years ago.
Some Russians who can prove they are clean will still be able to compete as neutral athletes, but they won't be able to wear Russian uniforms, fly the Russian flag, or play the Russian anthem during any awards ceremony.
"They wanted to make statement to say we're a power in the world and a power athletically and we are going to do everything in the world to prove that and they chose a wrong road to do that," said Darwitz.
Darwitz says the ban could mean no Russian men's hockey team, which has been synonymous with the Winter Olympics in the past. Other sports Russia has dominated, like figure skating, biathlon and cross country skiing could be affected as well.
“When you turn on the TV, there's going to be a void because you are used to seeing that red color on the screen and them being successful," said Darwitz.
Darwitz says she never came across anyone doping during her three trips to the Olympics, but she is glad the Olympic committee is finally taking a stand.
"With the IOC making a clean sweep saying Russia is not allowed in the Olympics is making people think twice and ten years from now, people watching on TV will say yep these athletes are doing it the right way," she said.