Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years yesterday, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with doping tests.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) executive committee acted after concluding that Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The decision was a huge blow to the pride of a nation that has traditionally been a powerhouse in many sports but whose reputation has been tarnished by a series of doping scandals.
“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.
“The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions...demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today,” he said in a statement.
The impact of the unanimous decision was felt immediately, with WADA confirming that the Russian national team could not take part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar under the Russian flag and could only participate as neutrals.
“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,” Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA’s compliance review committee, told a news conference.
It was not clear how that might work in practice. FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, said it was in contact with WADA to clarify the extent of the decision.
The ban also means that Russian sportsmen and sportswomen will not be able to perform at the Olympics in Tokyo next year under their own flag and national anthem.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has come under attack for not taking a harder line on Russian doping, said it fully backed the ruling by the Swiss-based WADA.
“The representatives of the Olympic Movement today supported this unanimous decision in the WADA Executive Committee, which is in line with the statement made by the IOC Executive Board last week and endorsed by the Olympic Summit,” the IOC said.
If RUSADA appeals WADA’s punishment, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.