Russia faces a four-year ban from global sport after World Anti-Doping Agency investigators found that a number of positive drugs tests were deleted from a database it extracted from a Moscow laboratory in January.
The recommendations, if approved by Wada’s executive committee in a meeting in Paris on 9 December, would likely lead to Russian athletes and teams being barred from next year’s Tokyo Olympics as well as a host of other major sporting competitions.
Wada’s compliance review committee has also recommended stripping Russia of sports events already awarded to the country “unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so” and for Russian government officials to be barred from attending sporting events for the next your years. A ban for the same period on flying the Russian flag at major competitions would also apply.
Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang but was allowed by the International Olympic Committee to send a 168-strong team under the name Olympic Athlete from Russia. Those numbers were also restricted by the IOC, who vetted Russian athletes’ doping history and investigated whether they were implicated in any apparent cover-ups.
It is understood that the same standard is likely to be applied for next year’s Olympics and for all international competitions run by governing bodies who are signatories to the Wada code. In other words each Russian athlete would have to be vetted in advance before being allowed to compete as a neutral athlete.
The expert panel’s advice could have serious implications for Fifa if accepted in full by Wada’s executive committee, given that a four-year ban on Russia would take in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Despite reports to the contrary, the Guardian understands Russia will still be able to stage four games at the 2020 European Championship in St Petersburg. Because the Euros are a regional football tournament and not a world competition, Russia’s players would still be eligible to play in next year’s tournament. That would pour cold water on speculation that Scotland could benefit from Russia’s exclusion to claim an automatic qualifying spot.
The news comes three years after a report by the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren concluded that more than 1,000 Russian athletes across more than 30 sports benefited from state-sponsored doping between 2012 and 2015.
McLaren said he had found “a cover-up that operated on an unprecedented scale” and pointed the finger at the Russian ministry of sport, the Russian security services and the Russian anti-doping agency for creating what he called “an institutional conspiracy across summer, winter and Paralympic sports”.
McLaren also confirmed urine samples, which had been taken from Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and at other major championships, had been swapped for their clean urine by using small metal rods to prise open the supposedly tamper-proof bottles. The tampering was carried out by the state security service, the FSB, with McLaren describing them as magicians.
Those clean samples were treated with salt and coffee to alter their consistency, tests on which showed in some cases that “samples had salt readings that were physiologically impossible”.
Wada spent several years trying to extract a database from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory to help it prosecute individual athletes before the Russians finally handed it over in January. Subsequent analysis by Wada’s investigators found the samples had been manipulated to conceal failed drug tests by Russian athletes and that Russia had also fabricated evidence in an attempt to shift blame for the changes to former Russian anti-doping officials.
Under regulations adopted in 2018, Wada has the power and authority to punish Russia, something it was unable to do when the scandal first emerged in 2016.
It is unclear how many Russian athletes could be barred if the new recommendations are approved but Wada confirmed it had identified the Russians whose data was missing from the manipulated database it had been given.
In a statement announcing its decision, Wada confirmed that “strong proposed consequences” had been outlined by its compliance review committee. “If the ExCo accepts the recommendation, formal notice will be sent to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency alleging non-compliance and proposing the above consequences. Rusada will have 21 days to accept the notice.
“If Rusada does not accept it, the matter will be referred to the court of arbitration for sport. If Cas imposes the proposed consequences, they will be binding and must be recognised and enforced by all signatories.”
More information: The Guardian.