The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from global sporting events for four years, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, after accusing Moscow of falsifying data from an anti-doping laboratory.
Russia, who have 21 days to appeal against the sentence, will still be able to compete in next year’s European football championships, where they are one of the host countries. As for the World Cup, FIFA said it was in discussions with WADA “to clarify the extent of the decision”.
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At a meeting of WADA's executive committee in Lausanne, spokesman James Fitzgerald said, “The full list of recommendations have been unanimously accepted. WADA's executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years.”
The latest sanction is the most severe yet against the country, which has been accused of running a systemic doping programme, which also involved deleting of crucial laboratory evidence. WADA president Sir Craig Reedie also released a statement in which he said, “For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join 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.”
In Russia the sanction has been met with widespread criticism of the system. The country’s ruling party described the ban as “politicised” and the deputy speaker of Russia’s parliament called it “a way of ousting Russian competitors from global sports.”
Evidence of wide-spread Russian doping was first revealed by WADA four years ago with a report claiming that at least 643 positive tests had been hidden by authorities. That resulted in the suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation (Rusaf), and 111 individual athletes were banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
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Last year WADA made the controversial decision to reinstate the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) on the condition that it complied with requests to share its laboratory results. Those results were subsequently found to have been tampered with, and led to renewed calls for sanctions. The latest sanction, as much as it is a hit for Russia, is also a black mark against WADA, which has failed to stick to its own decision.
Individual Russian athletes will be able to compete under a neutral banner at the Olympics, provided they can prove they are drug free. Under similar conditions, 30 Russians competed at this year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships as “Authorized Neutral Athletes”.
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