Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup and major sporting events for 4 years over doping scandal

In a photo taken on Feb 23, 2014, Russia's flags are raised during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
In a photo taken on Feb 23, 2014, Russia's flags are raised during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.PHOTO: AFP

LAUSANNE (AFP, AP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) on Monday (Dec 9) banned Russia from global sporting events, including the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar, after accusing Moscow of falsifying data from an anti-doping laboratory.

"The full list of recommendations have been unanimously accepted." said Wada spokesman James Fitzgerald, speaking at a meeting of the body's executive committee in Lausanne.

"Wada's executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years," he added.

Not only will Russia be ruled out of the next Olympic cycle, but Russian government officials will be barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host, or even bid, for tournaments.

It means Russian athletes will still be allowed to compete at the Tokyo Games as neutrals, but only if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what Wada believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.

"They are going to have prove they had nothing to do with the non-compliance, (that) they were not involved in the doping schemes as described by the McLaren report, or they did not have their samples affected by the manipulation," Fitzgerald said.

The independent McLaren report, released in 2016, revealed the significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015.

Still, it is unclear how the ruling will affect Russian teams taking part in world championships.

Regarding the next football World Cup, Jonathan Taylor, chairman of Wada’s compliance review committee, said Russia can still participate in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, which it hosted in 2018.

“Because the qualifiers don’t decide the world champion, Russia can take part. The decision applies to the World Cup tournament because it decides the world champion,” he said, adding: “Fifa would come with some new proposals."

The global football governing body had said earlier on Monday that it was seeking clarification about the extent of the suspension.

But the country's participation at Euro 2020, in which St Petersburg will host four matches, is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a “major event” for anti-doping purposes.

Reacting angrily, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the ban was the result of  “anti-Russian hysteria” and should be appealed.

“This is the continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria that has already become chronic,” he was quoted as saying by local news agencies.

Russia previously signalled that it would appeal against the decision. That must be filed by the Russian anti-doping agency, known as Rusada, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.

Rusada was itself declared non-compliant on Monday, 15 months after it was reinstated by Wada in defiance to athlete opposition.

 
 
 
 

Legal fallout from the ruling seems sure to dominate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which open on July 24.

Evidence shows that the Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistle-blowers, Wada investigators and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said last month.

"Flagrant manipulation" of the Moscow lab data was "an insult to the sporting movement worldwide," the IOC said last month.

However, Wada's inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Games and 2022 Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog's vice-president.

"I'm not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go," said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on Wada executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia.

"This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologise on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced."

Handing over a clean database to Wada was a key requirement for Russia to help bring closure to a scandal that has tainted the Olympics over the last decade.

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at the Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

That position was opposed by most of Wada's athlete commission. It wanted the kind of blanket ban Russia avoided for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games after a state-run doping programme was exposed by media and Wada investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

"This entire fiasco created by Russia has cheated far too many athletes of their dreams and rightful careers, for far too long," the Wada athlete panel said in a statement ahead of the meeting.

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. The authority was passed to the agency's supervisory board after an intervention led by the Russian Olympic Committee. The board is set to meet on Dec 19 to decide whether to appeal.

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 that was "a tragedy" for clean athletes. He added that some Russian athletes were contemplating leaving Russia so that they could train elsewhere.

Russia has stuck to its claim that deceptive edits in the data were in fact made by Wada's star witness, Grigory Rodchenkov.

The former Moscow lab director's flight into the witness protection programme in the United States was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary. Technical reasons were claimed - and debunked by Wada investigators - for why the data appeared to have been edited shortly before the delayed handover in January.