Russian athletes marched behind their national flag at the Winter Olympics in 2014. But the country has been barred from the 2018 Games. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Russian athletes will be allowed to stand on the medal podium at the Winter Olympics — just not with their anthem playing or their nation’s flag rising above them.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) barred Russia and its sports leaders from the upcoming games in PyeongChang, South Korea, after its lead investigator found that members of the Russian government created a doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games that “caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports.”

The IOC punishment left room for many Russians to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” or OAR. They would have to pass drug tests to prove that they were clean and that they had not benefited from the Sochi scheme.

If they win, the Olympic flag would be raised and the Olympic anthem played to honor their victories. That is, if Russian President Vladimir Putin allows them to go to the Games. He has said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without its national symbols.

Athletes who would have won medals at the Sochi Olympics if not for Russia's doping program gave a broad thumbs-up to the IOC decision to let Russians compete at the upcoming PyeongChang Games in February — but not under their own flag.

Many of those athletes said the IOC struck a good balance between punishing the nation but not Russian athletes who were not part of the vast doping scheme.

They said they wouldn't have felt comfortable had the IOC banned all Russians from the PyeongChang Games.

"Very tough collective sanctions can lead to a huge injustice, and that's not at all the IOC's role to do that," said French cross-country skier Robin Duvillard. He and other members of the French team that got a bronze medal in the men's 4x10-kilometer relay in Sochi are now in line for the silver medal that was stripped in November from the Russian team.

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