London: Russia is facing worldwide sporting exile after investigators confirmed the nation appears to have deleted positive drug tests in laboratory data sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Moscow-based agency Rusada was described by officials as needing to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” in three weeks to convince Wada not to reinstate sanctions, leaving the country’s international sporting future in severe doubt.

Subject to a likely battle at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, Russia could be banned globally from every sport that signs up to Wada’s code. That would include the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the football World Cup in 2022.

On Monday, Wada formally warned Russia it was “robustly” investigating “inconsistencies” in data finally handed over in January to escape a previous drug ban.

In a rare acknowledgement of concern at the Kremlin, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said in a statement: “We have spent vast diplomatic efforts to regain the trust of the international sports community. Now we again run the risk of facing sanctions for reasons with which we have nothing to do.”

The Telegraph reported over the weekend how Russia could be declared non-compliant again, and that their participation at Tokyo 2020 was in doubt. Now, following a Wada meeting in Tokyo, Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the committee tasked with overseeing Russia’s compliance, said: “There were positive findings that were deleted. The question is, why.”

Taylor told The New York Times that the state needed to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” if it was to avoid new penalties. “We will give them a chance to explain,” he said as the committee prepares to reconvene on October 23 to decide whether to recommend Russia is designated “non-compliant”.

Wada’s executive committee confirmed it had received a report from its compliance review committee updating it on the analysis of a huge handover of data from Moscow. “The ExCo was informed that further investigation … of inconsistencies in Moscow laboratory data … had led Wada to open a formal compliance procedure against Rusada on September 17, 2019,” the agency said.

The International Association of Athletics Federations confirmed yesterday Russia would miss the athletics World Championships for the second successive time after opting to extend the country’s ban.

Russia had hoped to return to international athletics for the first time since its ban in November 2015, but the IAAF announced that will not happen four days before the event begins in Qatar.

In addition to Wada’s revelations over potential drug-test data manipulation, the IAAF said athletics coaches associated with doping were still plying their trade freely in Russia. “There is a recurring problem of athletes and local athletics federations working with banned coaches, which undermines the creation of any strong anti-doping culture,” said Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF task force into Russian doping.

Andersen also noted recent allegations that Russian athletics federation officials attempted to cover up a doping offence by world indoor high jump champion Danil Lysenko, who is currently suspended from competition.

The International Olympic Committee put restrictions on Russia’s participation at the past two Olympic Games. Russia was barred from the Pyeongchang Winter Games last year as punishment for alleged state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, some Russians with no history of doping were cleared to compete as neutrals, which will also be the case at the forthcoming athletics World Championships.

Meanwhile, the Athletics Integrity Unit is due to meet German television channel ZDF this week to receive material related to a documentary that alleged doping is widespread in Kenyan athletics.