RPT: REVIEW - WADA Bans Russia From Major Global Sporting Events For 4 Years Over Doping Violations

MOSCOW (Sputnik) (Pakistan Point news / Sputnik - 10th December, 2019) The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee endorsed on Monday the recommendation by the agency's Compliance Review Committee (CRC) to ban Russia from major international sporting events for the next four years.

WADA also declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The move comes after Russia was accused of manipulating data from a Moscow laboratory before handing it over to the agency's investigators, which was a crucial condition of the decision to reinstate RUSADA back in 2018.

"The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA's reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today," WADA President Craig Reedie was quoted as saying in WADA's press release.

In 2015, RUSADA was banned by WADA over accusations of a large-scale state-sponsored doping scheme involving thousands of Russian athletes, coaches and officials. As a result, Russian athletes competed under the Olympic flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea's PyeongChang.

Last September, the ban was lifted, and RUSADA was recognized as compliant under the key condition that Moscow would provide the agency with an authentic copy of a massive database of athlete records from the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre.

In January, the WADA Intelligence and Investigations Department was given a copy of the database, but found that "some data were removed, others altered and, in some cases, system messages were fabricated in an effort to hamper the work of WADA investigators."

According to WADA, while some of the evidence of doping violations was removed in 2016 and 2017, further significant deletions and alterations were made in December 2018 and January 2019 prior to handing over the database copy to the agency's investigators. Besides, the anti-doping agency indicated attempts to conceal the data manipulation by back-dating of computer systems.

In September, WADA launched another non-compliance procedure against Russia and gave RUSADA three weeks to explain "inconsistencies" that the anti-doping watchdog found in the data obtained by its investigators. Russia sent responses to the data manipulation allegations to WADA on October 8.

However, the WADA CRC concluded that "the Moscow data was intentionally altered," therefore recommending to impose a series of restrictions on Russia, its sports officials and athletes. The Executive Committee endorsed the recommendation in full.

WHAT RESTRICTIONS DID WADA IMPOSE ON RUSSIA?

Under the WADA ban, Russia will be barred from hosting and bidding to host any major international sporting events for the next four years, while the right to host such events, which has already been awarded to Russia, must be withdrawn and reassigned if it is possible.

Jonathan Taylor, the WADA CRC chief, said on Monday that the committee had the Names of all "suspicious" Russian athletes, who had their data altered or removed in the Moscow laboratory database, adding that they would be kept out of the forthcoming Olympic Games. According to Gunter Younger, the director of intelligence and investigations for WADA, nearly one-third of 145 "most suspicious" Russian athletes were still competing.

Despite the WADA Athletes Committee's calls to impose a "blanket" ban, which would have barred Russian athletes completely from competing in major sporting events, the Executive Committee allowed athletes and support personnel, who prove that they are not implicated by the non-compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code, to take part in the competitions, but not as representatives Russia.

Taylor explained that when deciding whether to impose a total or partial ban, the agency decided in favor of the latter at the suggestion of a former athlete on the committee, who said that the new generation of Russian athletes, who had not begun their career during the time of the doping scandal, deserved a chance to compete.

Unlike the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Russian athletes will not compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia," but as "neutral athletes" instead. The same applies to Russian football players, who will have to play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as a "neutral team," should they qualify. Therefore, the Russian national flag may not be flown at any major international sporting event, according to WADA's decision.

Besides, Russian government officials and representatives will be banned from attending any major international sporting events, as well as be appointed to sit or sit as members of the board of international sports organizations that are signatories of the World Anti-Doping Code.

According to the WADA's decision, RUSADA can be reinstated if its independence is proved and there is no outside interference in its operation during the four-year period. No special monitoring or supervision or takeover of RUSADA's anti-doping activities will be imposed in this period.

RUSADA will now have 21 days to accept WADA's notice. If the Russian agency decides to dispute it, the matter will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The CRC chief told reporters that there was a possibility that the CAS may not be able to deliver a ruling on the matter in time for the Tokyo Olympics, should Russia dispute WADA's allegation.

"If that happens, then because it is a roll-in four-year period that starts when the decision becomes final, it will cover [the 2024 Olympic Games in] Paris instead. So it will be up to the Russians to decide which they want to have covered Tokyo or Paris," Taylor said.

However, the sides are likely to agree on expedited proceedings in the CAS, Artem Patsev, a Russian sports lawyer who represented Russian athletes at the CAS ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, told Sputnik.

"I think that here, in fact, the parties will agree, if necessary, on expedited proceedings in the CAS, so the deadlines are the least that one can worry about," Patsev said.

The lawyer noted that all proceedings in the CAS related to the case of 39 Russian athletes, who were appealing non-admission to the PyeongChang Olympics, had taken around one month.

Speaking about the future proceedings at the sports arbitration court, Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told reporters on Monday that Russia had rather good prospects to dispute WADA's decision in the CAS.

"I think that perspectives for appealing [WADA's decision] are pretty good ... and we should take the case to CAS, where there are three arbiters and where decisions are made not based on recommendations made by a WADA representative," he said.

Patsev, on the other hand, refused to make any projections regarding the likely outcome, but noted that Russia might try to appeal the new Compliance Standard, which entered into force in April 2018 and served basis for fresh sanctions against Russian athletes. The lawyer noted, however, that the deadline for appealing the rules had already expired, and that in order to do so Russia would need WADA to agree to restoration of the missed deadline.

"But, in general, athletes, who want to compete in international sporting events, will be granted or not granted the status of neutral athletes, and then some legal proceedings on the matter may take place," Patsev said.

He noted that CAS had mechanism to process such cases in an expedited manner before the Olympic Games or, the court's special decision would be able to review such cases on site if there were only few days left before a kick-off of the Olympic event.