LAUSANNE: Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years on Monday, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 FIFA World Cup, for tampering with doping tests.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) executive committee acted after concluding that Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The decision was a huge blow to the pride of a nation that has traditionally been a powerhouse in many sports but whose reputation has been tarnished by a series of doping scandals.
“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.
“The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADAs reinstatement conditions...demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today,” he said in a statement.
The impact of the unanimous decision was felt immediately, with WADA confirming that the Russian national team could not take part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar under the Russian flag and could only participate as neutrals.
“If they qualify, a team representing Russia cannot participate, but if there is a mechanism put in place, then they can apply to participate on a neutral basis, not as representatives of Russia,” Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA’s compliance review committee, told a news conference.
It was not clear how that might work in practice. FIFA, football’s world governing body, said it was in contact with WADA to clarify the extent of the decision.
Russian’s participation in Euro 2020 — and St Petersburg’s hosting of four matches — is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a “major event” for anti-doping purposes.
The ban also means that Russian sportsmen and sportswomen will not be able to perform at the Olympics in Tokyo next year under their own flag and national anthem.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has come under attack for not taking a harder line on Russian doping, said it fully backed the ruling by the Swiss-based WADA.
“The representatives of the Olympic Movement today supported this unanimous decision in the WADA Executive Committee, which is in line with the statement made by the IOC Executive Board last week and endorsed by the Olympic Summit,” the IOC said.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic organising committee said it would welcome all athletes as long as they were clean. It would also work with relevant organisations to fully implement anti-doping measures, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said in a statement.
Russia has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
Its woes have only grown since, with many of its athletes sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Monday’s sanctions, which also include a four-year ban on Russia hosting major sporting events, were recommended by WADA’s compliance review committee in response to the doctored laboratory data provided by Moscow earlier this year.
One of the conditions for the reinstatement of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, which was suspended in 2015 in the wake of the athletics doping scandal but reinstated last year, had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data. The sanctions effectively strip the agency of its accreditation.
RUSADA can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days — an action it has signaled it would take.
The decision to appeal has been stripped from RUSADA chief executive Yuri Ganus, an independent figure criticising Russian authorities conduct on the doping data issue. Authority was passed to the agency’s supervisory board after an intervention led by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
The ROC on Saturday labelled the expected sanctions as illogical and inappropriate.
Ganus said on Monday that his country had “no chance” of winning an appeal against the ban, dubbing it tragic for clean athletes.
“There is no chance of winning this case in court,” Ganus said, with RUSADA’s supervisory board set to meet on December 19 to take a decision on whether to appeal the ban.
“This is a tragedy,” he added. “Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited.”
The punishment leaves the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at big international events without their flag or anthem for the next four years, something they did at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“This protects the rights of Russian athletes by allowing re-entry for those able to demonstrate they are not implicated in any way [in doping],” Reedie told a news conference.
“The decision is designed to punish the guilty parties...it stands strong against those who cheated the system.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the ban was politically motivated. “This is the continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria that has already become chronic,” Medvedev told domestic news agencies.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019