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Russia handed four-year ban from Olympics, major international events by World Anti-Doping Agency

The World Anti-Doping Agency has voted unanimously to sideline Russia for the next four years after the country's doping agency reportedly failed to comply and tampered with data pertaining to the Sochi doping scandal.

With gold medals draped around their necks following the men’s final at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, the Olympic Athletes from Russia, including the likes of Pavel Datysuk and Ilya Kovlachuk, sang the Russian national anthem aloud as the Olympic anthem blared in the background and the generic five-ring flag was raised to the rafters. And if the Russian men manage to win back-to-back gold medals and finish atop the podium at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, it appears as though the same scene will play out once again.

On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced Russia has been banned from major international competition for the next four years. That not only includes the 2022 Beijing Games, but also the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, upcoming youth Olympics, Paralympics and FIFA’s World Cup. It is possible, though not yet confirmed, that the IIHF World Championships will also be covered by the ban. The World Junior Championship, however, will not, according to Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko.

The ban comes after the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 12-member executive committee voted unanimously to support a recommendation made by the independent Compliance Review Committee that Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency, otherwise known as RUSADA, be declared non-compliant.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said in a strongly worded statement. “The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo (Executive Committee) in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial. As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts.”

The CRC’s 26-page recommendation, made in late-November, accused RUSADA of failing to comply with the reinstatement conditions set forth by WADA, including intentionally tampering with data requested from RUSADA’s Moscow laboratory. Much of the data pertained to the massive 2016 doping scandal that took place during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi that saw positive drug tests swapped out through an elaborate scheme. Whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov opened up about the scandal to the New York Times in 2016. The scandal was also the subject of the 2017 documentary ‘Icarus’.

RUSADA turning over the data was deemed a critical condition of the reinstatement process as it would allow “the anti-doping community finally to resolve and draw a line under the allegations of a systematic conspiracy to dope Russian athletes,” as well as ensure Russian athletes who tested positive at the 2014 Olympics could be appropriately punished and “just as importantly…ensure that innocent Russian athletes could be cleared of suspicion,” read WADA’s statement.

RUSADA will have 21 days to accept or dispute the ban. If it is upheld, Russia will not be able to be formally represented at any major event, which means the flag will not be flown and the anthem will not be played. Other consequences of the ban include foregoing the hosting any major event “unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so,” the inability to be represented at any major event by a member of its Olympic committee, inability to bid for any major event, including the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and inability to have representatives on any boards or committees, including the International Ice Hockey Federation.

As it was with the 2018 Olympics, however, a number of Russian athletes will be able to compete under a neutral designation even if the ban is upheld. Russian athletes who can “demonstrate that they are not implicated in any way” in the doping scandal will be eligible to participate at the Olympics, likely under the same Olympic Athletes from Russia banner they competed in Pyeongchang. Including the OAR men’s and women’s hockey teams, there were 168 competitors from Russia in Pyeongchang. The gold medal won by the OAR men's team marked the first Olympic gold won by Russian players since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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