191126 Russia
A Russian flag is held above the Olympic Rings at Adler Arena Skating Center during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Image Credit: AP

Montreal: A key World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel has recommended Russia be barred from all sporting competition for four years after accusing Moscow of falsifying laboratory data handed over to investigators, the global anti-doping watchdog said on Monday.

In a bombshell statement, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) called for the sanction, which would see Russia banned from next year’s Olympics, to be approved at a meeting in Paris on December 9.

The recommendation followed what WADA investigators described as “an extremely serious” case of non-compliance “with several aggravating features.”

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The proposed four-year ban comes after WADA examined data from Russia’s doping-tainted Moscow laboratory, which was handed over to WADA in January.

Full disclosure of data from the Moscow lab was a key condition of Russia’s controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had been suspended for nearly three years previously over revelations of a vast state-supported doping program.

However WADA said in its statement on Monday that the data handed over was rife with problems, describing it as “neither complete nor fully authentic.”

It said hundreds of adverse analytical findings had been removed while underlying raw data and PDF files had been deleted.

While some of the deleted findings had taken place in 2016 or 2017, when the Russian doping scandal first erupted, other information had been removed in December 2018 or January of this year — shortly before the data was delivered to WADA.

WADA also said someone in Moscow laboratory had planted fabricated messages into a key database — between November 2018 and January 2019 — in an attempt to support a theory that doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov had planted false entries into the system as part of an extortion plot.

The four-year sanction was part of a range of measures the CRC had recommended be approved by WADA’s Executive Committee next month.

As well as a ban from all sporting competition, CRC had recommended Russia be forbidden from hosting or bidding for any major event.

Russian government officials would also be barred from attending any major events.

Individual Russian athletes may still compete in events such as the Olympics, but only if they are able to prove they are not implicated in the broader doping scandal.