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    Russia expected to appeal against WADA anti-doping ban

    The decision is the harshest sanction ever imposed by WADA. Credit: Belga

    Russia is expected to appeal against a decision on Monday by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which bans it from all major sporting events for the next four years.

    The decision, the harshest sanction ever imposed by WADA, capped an investigation into accusations of institutionalised doping levelled against Russian state authorities.

    The agency has now banned Russia from hosting or participating in the Olympics, multi-country sporting events such as the European and University Games, or any world championship organised under the aegis of signatories to the world anti-doping code. Russian statesmen and officials of the Russian Olympic Committee are also excluded from such competitions.

    Russia will thus miss the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, and the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar.

    “The complete list of recommendations” on sanctions by the agency’s compliance review committee “was unanimously approved” by the 12 members of its executive committee, a WADA spokesman said on Monday.

    Russian sportsmen and women would still be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. However, Russians “who wish to take part in the Olympics, Para-Olympics or any other major event mentioned in the recommendations will have to show that they are not involved in the doping programmes (…) or that their samples were not tampered with,” the spokesperson said.

    The various parties involved, such as the Russian Olympic Committee and any international federation concerned, have 21 days to appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). The sanctions would then be suspended and would only be applied if confirmed by the CAS.

    For over five years now, Russia has been at the centre of the biggest doping scandal in the history of sport.

    Corruption, the disappearance of positive drug tests by the Russian anti-doping agency, RUSADA, and the manipulation of samples at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 forced WADA to suspend the anti-doping centre in Moscow in 2015.

    In September 2018, WADA conditioned the lifting of RUSADA’s suspension on the handover of all raw data on tests by the former Moscow laboratory so as to identify sportspeople who had tested positive for doping but had been protected by the Russian system. Thanks to data processing experts, WADA investigators became convinced that the data had been tampered with, in some cases between late 2018 and early 2019, just before being handed over, while “hundreds” of suspicious test results vanished.

    Hot on the heels of the announcement of WADA’s decision on Monday, former Olympic speed-skating champion Svetlano Zhurova, a member of the lower house of the Russian Parliament, announced the probability of an appeal.

    “A meeting of the RUSADA supervisory council will be held on 19 December,” Zhurova said. “It will decide on whether RUSADA accepts these recommendations or not, and on the possibility of going before the CAS. I am 100% convinced (that Russia will appeal) because we need to defend our athletes.”

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times