WADA imposes four-year ban on Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has imposed a four-year ban on Russia using its flag, anthem and team names at Olympic and other major sports events.

WADA’s Executive Committee (ExCo) took the decision in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday 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.

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The WADA committee’s decision to punish Russia with a ban was unanimous, a spokesman for the agency said.

Russia, which has tried to showcase itself as a global sports 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 the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which was suspended in 2015 in the wake of the athletics doping scandal but was reinstated last year, had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data.

Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues.

The sanctions effectively strip the agency of its accreditation.

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 Olympics.

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.

It is not yet clear whether the ruling will prohibit Russia from competing at the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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