WADA Hits Russia With Four-Year Ban From Int'l Sports
Russia has been handed a four-year ban from international sports events, including the '20 Tokyo Games, over a longstanding doping scandal, although its athletes will still "be able to compete if they can show they are clean competitors," according to Graham Dunbar of the AP. The ruling by WADA's executive committee "means that Russia's flag, name and anthem will not appear at the Tokyo Games," and the country also "could be stripped of hosting world championships in Olympic sports." The sanctions are the "harshest punishment yet" for Russian state authorities who were "accused of tampering with a Moscow laboratory database." Russian athletes still will be "allowed to compete in major events only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or if their data was not manipulated." For the '22 FIFA World Cup, WADA said that the Russian team will "play under its name in the qualifying program in Europe," but if it qualifies for Qatar, the name will have to be "changed to something neutral that likely would not include the word 'Russia.'" WADA investigators and the IOC last month said that evidence indicates Russian authorities tampered with the Moscow laboratory database to "hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers" (AP, 12/9).
BREAKDOWN: In N.Y., Yaron Steinbuch notes Russia, a "perennial global sports power," has been "embroiled in doping scandals" since a '15 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics. Many Russian athletes were "sidelined" from the '16 Rio and '18 Pyeongchang Games, and the country was "stripped of its flag altogether" in Pyeongchang as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the '14 Sochi Games. The 168 Russians who had "not been implicated in the country's state-sponsored doping scheme competed as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia'" in Pyeongchang (N.Y. POST, 12/9). In London, Jack de Menezes notes as for the UEFA Euro '20 this summer, Russia has "not only qualified" but is "scheduled to host three matches in Group B at St. Petersburg's Krestovsky Stadium." UEFA is "not acknowledged by WADA as a major sporting organisation," and as a result, Russia remains "eligible to compete and host within European competition" (London INDEPENDENT, 12/9). The head of Russia's Euro '20 organizing committee said that the matches in St. Petersburg will go on "as scheduled" and the Russian national team will "play under the Russian flag" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/9).
STILL NOT ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes WADA's decision is a "smokescreen, more kowtowing to Russia at the expense of clean athletes." This is "not the blanket ban that athletes and many who actually care about fighting doping had called for," but rather a "farce that allows Russia to compete in all of the biggest events, albeit without its flag and anthem." Russia also was banned in Pyeongchang, though athletes who "could 'prove' they were clean" competed. That "didn't fool anyone," and it "certainly didn't dissuade Russia from cheating." Armour: "Heaven forbid Russia should actually be punished. That Olympic and anti-doping officials should actually impose sanctions that send a clear message to President Vladimir Putin and his henchmen that their shenanigans to undermine international sport will no longer be tolerated" (USA TODAY, 12/9).