Russia banned
A supporter waves a Russian flag in front of the logo of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at their headquarters in Pully near Lausanne. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced Russia’s four-year ban from international sports competition by half, but the country still will miss the next two Olympics and World Cup.

The decision was announced Thursday morning by the Swiss-based court. A panel of three arbitrators held a four-day hearing last month to consider the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s ban, which was handed down last December.

The court ruling means that Russia won’t formally have any presence — no name, no flag, no anthem — at the Tokyo Olympics next summer or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. It also will be barred from most major international competition through 2022, including Fifa’s World Cup, the Youth Olympic Games, Paralympics, world championships and other major sporting events subject to World Anti-Doping Code.

“This Panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the noncompliance and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained,” the arbitrators wrote in their decision. “The consequences which the Panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA. This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities.”

Under terms of the WADA decision last year, Russian athletes who have not been implicated in the country’s state-sponsored doping scheme still will be allowed to compete in Tokyo and Beijing as unaffiliated athletes. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, 168 Russians competed as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Thursday’s decision marks the latest and possibly one of the final twists in the years-long doping saga. Russia has spent most of the year fighting the WADA punishment, appealing it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has final say on the matter.

The WADA executive committee issued the four-year ban last December, punishing Russia for failing to comply with measures put in place in response to a previous punishment in the state-sponsored scandal. Russia was barred from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games but the country and its anti-doping agency (RUSADA) were conditionally reinstated in September 2018.

As part of its reinstatement, Russia agreed to turn over data from its Moscow laboratory. WADA investigators began collecting that data in January 2019 but noticed it didn’t align with information that had been shared by a whistle-blower in October 2017.

WADA’s Compliance Review Committee found that the data was “neither complete nor fully authentic,” and there were “hundreds of presumptive adverse analytical findings” shared by the whistle-blower that weren’t included in Russia’s 2019 submission. The investigators determined that 145 cases had been tampered with after RUSADA had been reinstated and ordered to turn over the data.

Investigators also found that someone attempted to incriminate whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow lab, by planting fabricated evidence in the data, falsely indicating that he was involved in a scheme to extort money from athletes.

In addition to the ban on international competition, WADA’s executive committee also recommended that Russian officials be barred from sitting on any boards and committees related to international sports governance. Russia also will not be permitted to host any major sporting event or even apply for hosting duties, and the Russian flag would not be allowed to fly at any major event.

Russia is traditionally one of the top-performing countries at the Olympics. At the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the country’s track and field athletes were barred from competing because of doping concerns, but Russia still sent 282 athletes and brought home 56 medals, the fourth-most of any nation. At the 2012 Games, the Russian contingent included 436 athletes, the third-largest Olympic team in London, and won 82 medals.

Russian athletes who hope to compete in Tokyo and at other major events will have to prove that they have no history of doping and that their test results have never been tampered with by Russia’s anti-doping officials.