Russia banned from 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup over doping scandal

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GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 25: Gold medal winners Olympic Athletes from Russia look on as the Olympic flag is raised during the medal ceremony after the Men’s Gold Medal Game against Germany on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. Olympic Athletes from Russia defeated Germany 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has unanimously agreed to ban Russia from major international sporting competitions — notably the Olympics and the World Cup — for four years over doping non-compliance.

WADA’s compliance review committee (CRC) had suggested several sanctions because of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) failure to cooperate fully during probes into Russian sport.

WADA’s executive committee decided to uphold the recommendations at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday.

Russian whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who was influential in initially exposing the doping cover-up, praised WADA’s decision.

“Finally, Russia’s many doping and obstruction sins will now get some of the punishment they richly deserve. For far too long, Russia has weaponized doping fraud and state-sponsored criminal activity as a tool of foreign policy,” said Rodchenkov via his lawyer Jim Walden, in a statement sent to CNN.

“Let every corrupt nation that tries to play from Russia’s illicit playbook take heed of today’s monumental decision. When doping conspiracies become a crime under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, cheaters will be in U.S. prisons and clean athletes will be better protected.”

RUSADA has 21 days to accept the decision or send the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Svetlana Zhurova, first deputy chairperson of the international committee of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house, suggested an appeal was very likely and that a decision would be made when RUSADA meets on December 19.

“I am 100% sure [Russia will go to court] because we must defend our athletes,” she told TASS News Agency.

Why the ban?

If upheld, WADA’s decision means Russia will be unable to compete in events such as next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo nor the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It will also be unable to host any major sporting events.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie in a statement.

“The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today.”

WADA’s punishment relates to inconsistencies in data retrieved by WADA in January 2019 from the Moscow lab at the center of the 2016 McLaren report, which uncovered a widespread and sophisticated state-sponsored sports doping network.

RUSADA was initially deemed non-compliant after the publication of the McLaren report in 2016.

Commissioned by WADA, the report found the Russian state conspired with athletes and sporting officials to undertake a doping program that was unprecedented in its scale and ambition.

The findings led to sanctions, including no Russian team being present at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, with certain eligible athletes being forced to compete under a neutral flag.

Competing as neutrals

The latest ban leaves the door open for Russian athletes, who can prove they are not tainted by the scandal, to compete as neutral athletes.

For example, the Russian national team can still qualify for the World Cup finals in 2022, but if successful would have to compete as a neutral team in Qatar.

Reedie continued: “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.”

“As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts.”

Both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) told CNN they acknowledge and support WADA’s decision.

Broken system

However, the decision has not satisfied everybody, notably United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law. And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized WADA’s decision, describing it as “anti-Russian hysteria.”

“The fact that all these decisions are repeated, and often in relation to athletes who have already been punished in one way or another suggests that this is a continuation of anti-Russian hysteria, which has already become chronic,” he said, calling on Russian organizations involved to appeal.

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