Russia banned for four years to include 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup

Olympic and Russian flags at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo: February 2014
Athletes will not be allowed to compete under the Russian flag at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics or Beijing 2022 Winter Games

Russia has been handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

It means the Russia flag and anthem will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said the ban was part of “chronic anti-Russian hysteria”.

“It is obvious that significant doping problems still exist in Russia, I mean our sporting community,” he said. “This is impossible to deny.

“But on the other hand the fact that all these decisions are repeated, often affecting athletes who have already been punished in one way or another, not to mention some other points – of course this makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin said the country had grounds to appeal against the decision.

Wada’s executive committee made the unanimous decision to impose the ban on Russia in a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday.

It comes after Russia’s Anti Doping Agency (Rusada) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019.

It had to hand over data to Wada as a condition of its controversial reinstatement in 2018 after a three-year suspension for its vast state-sponsored doping scandal.

Wada says Rusada has 21 days to appeal against the ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said the decision showed its “determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis”.

He added: “For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of Rusada’s reinstatement conditions demanded a robust response.

“That is exactly what has been delivered.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.”

But Wada vice-president Linda Helleland said the ban was “not enough”.

“I wanted sanctions that can not be watered down,” she said. “We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.”

A total of 168 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the country was banned following the 2014 Games, which it hosted in Sochi. Russian athletes won 33 medals in Sochi, 13 of which were gold.

Russia has been banned from competing as a nation in athletics since 2015.

Despite the ban, Russia will be able to compete at Euro 2020 – in which St Petersburg will be a host city – as European football’s governing body Uefa is not defined as a ‘major event organisation’ with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

Fifa said it had “taken note” of Wada’s decision, adding: “Fifa is in contact with Wada to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football.”

The promoters of the Russian Grand Prix also said they were “confident” the race would go ahead because their contract was signed before the Wada investigation and runs until 2025.

An F1 spokesman reiterated the comments of the promoters, adding: “We will monitor the situation to see if there is an appeal and what would be its outcome.”

In a statement, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said: “Those responsible for the manipulation of data from the Moscow laboratory before it was transferred to Wada appear to have done everything possible to undermine the principles of fair and clean sport, principles that the rest of the sporting world support and adhere to.

“This sincere lack of respect towards the rest of the global sporting movement is not welcome and has zero place in the world of sport. It is only right that those responsible for this data manipulation are punished.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it “supported” Wada’s decision.

How did we get here?

Rusada was initially declared non-compliant in November 2015 after a Wada-commissioned report by sports lawyer Professor Richard McLaren alleged widespread corruption that amounted to state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field athletics.

A further report, published in July 2016, declared Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports.

In 2018, Wada reinstated Rusada as compliant after the national agency agreed to release data from its Moscow laboratory from the period between January 2012 and August 2015.

However, positive findings contained in a version courtesy of a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the January 2019 data, which prompted a new inquiry.

Wada’s compliance review committee (CRC) recommended a raft of measures based “in particular” on a forensic review of inconsistencies found in some of that data.

As part of the ban, Russia may not host, or bid for or be granted the right to host any major events for four years, including the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What was the reaction?

Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Russian anti-doping official who fled to the United States after his allegations about a state-sponsored doping programme, says there remains “more to do”.

“Finally, fraud, lies and falsifications of unspeakable proportions have been punished in full swing,” he said in a statement.

“Those involved in the corruption of certain sports such as track and field, weightlifting, skiing, biathlon and bobsled, should be punished retroactively. The results of the London and Sochi Olympic Games should be reanalysed and reconsidered with the new knowledge available today.

“We only have a few months to reanalyse the samples from the 2012 London Games because, according to Wada rules, we only have eight years to review.

“There is a whole generation of clean athletes who have painfully abandoned their dreams and lost awards because of Russian cheaters. We need to take the strongest action to bring justice back to sport.”

UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) chief executive Nicole Sapstead said Wada’s decision to impose a ban on Russia was the “only possible outcome” to “reassure athletes and the public and continue the task of seeking justice for those cheated by Russian athletes”.

However, Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said not imposing a blanket ban on all participation by Russian athletes – even under a neutral flag – is a “devastating blow” to clean athletes.

“The reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform,” he said, adding that it was “another horrendous Groundhog Day of Russian corruption and domination”.

“Wada promised the world back in 2018 that if Russia failed yet again to live up to its agreements, it would use the toughest sanction under the rules. Yet, here we go again; Wada says one thing and does something entirely different.”

British powerlifter and Paralympic medallist Ali Jawad, who is a member of UK Anti-Doping’s athlete commission, said Wada had been “soft”.

“To protect the next generation of Russian athletes, we need to make sure Russia and the system is punished to the fullest extent,” Jawad told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The only way we can change that is meaningful change and what kind of message does this send out to the future generation? That, actually, state-sponsored doping, we are going to treat it softly.”

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told Radio Wales that Wada has now “stepped up” and moved forward after “not taking it as seriously”.

“There are a couple of things; there will be clean Russian athletes, it is a shame for them, but there are lots of clean athletes that have been affected by anyone who has doped,” she said.

“For the athletes who are clean, the British athletes that have lost out, Goldie Sayers, the British bobsleigh team who get their medals years later, it is no recompense.”

Triple Olympic medallist Kelly Sotherton, who was retrospectively awarded her 2008 heptathlon bronze after Russia’s Tatyana Chernova failed to have a doping ban overturned, says she understands why tougher sanctions were not imposed.

“I think they are thinking of the majority of athletes who are doing the right thing, not the wrong thing,” she said.

SOURCE: BBC

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