World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed a four-year suspension to the Russian Athletics Federation from all major sporting events, which includes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 2021 World Championships, and 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The decision was taken after the world doping body concluded that the Russian authorities tampered the Moscow laboratory database in order to hide several potential doping cases. The committee’s decision to suspend Russia with a ban was unanimous, a WADA spokesman confirmed.
“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said in a statement. “The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement condition demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today.”
WADA also clarified that the Russian national football team cannot take part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup under the Russian flag.
“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,” said Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA’s compliance review committee.
A spokesperson for FIFA told Reuters it had asked WADA and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) to clarify its decision in regards to Russian national football teams.
But WADA has said the ban will not affect Russia’s hosting of four UEFA Euro 2020 matches, including a quarter-final, as well as the UEFA Champions League final in 2021 set to be held in St. Petersburg. WADA has said these events “are not multi-sport major events or world championships but rather regional/continental single-sport events.”
The country found itself tangled in a doping scandal after a 2015 report by WADA stated that the body found evidence of mass doping among Russian athletes.
Since the development, there has been a significant rise in reported doping cases among the Russian athletes. Many were sidelined from the past two Olympics and athletes were stripped of the Russian flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.
However, Russian athletes who are so far free from doping violations can still compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem for four years, as was the case during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
WADA also stated that if Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA appeals against the sanctions then the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
RUSADA head Yuri Ganus could not be immediately be reached for comment. His deputy, Margarita Pakhnotskaya, told the TASS news agency that WADA’s decision had been expected. Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues.
Earlier last month, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had stated that the Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database in order to hide several potential doping cases and tried to shift the blame onto the whistleblowers.
“Flagrant manipulation of the Moscow lab data was ‘an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.
(with Reuters inputs)