Russia was banned from the Olympics and world championships in a range of sport for four years on Monday after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruled to punish it for manipulating laboratory data, a WADA spokesman said.
The punishment, however, leaves the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem for four years, as was the case during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
WADA’s executive committee took the decision after it concluded that Moscow had tampered with laboratory data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The WADA committee’s decision to punish Russia with a ban was unanimous, the spokesman said.
Al Jazeera sports correspondent Lee Wellings said: “It’s significant, important and covers all sporting events, however it doesn’t change that much about the situation we’ve been in for the past five years after Russia effectively poisoned its own Winter Olympics in Sochi, when wide-scale state-sponsored corruption was uncovered.
“From that position onward, it’s been about the politics of the situation. There are very few who believe that Russia isn’t doping. The question is, what are people going to do about it?
“In this instance, it’s a perceived four-year ban, it’s a ban really on the flag of Russia .. There will be neutral athletes from Russia that are effectively a Russian team – that will continue.”
Wellings said Russia would have to launch appeals in order to host planned sports events, in light of the ban.
“Big figures in sport want to keep Russia in the game, rather than push them away from it,” he said.
Russia, which has tried to showcase itself as a global sport power, has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
Its doping woes have grown since, with many of its athletes sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Monday’s sanctions had been recommended by WADA’s compliance review committee in response to the doctored laboratory data provided by Moscow earlier this year.
One of the conditions for the reinstatement of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, which was suspended in 2015 in the wake of the athletics doping scandal but reinstated last year, had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data.
The sanctions effectively strip the agency of its accreditation.
Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues.
Some Russian officials, meanwhile, have branded the call for sanctions unfair and likened it to broader Western attempts to hold back the country.
If RUSADA appeals the sanctions endorsed by WADA’s executive committee, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), WADA has said.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies