Dec 17, 2020
Russia will not be able to use its flag or anthem at the next two Olympics or any world championships for the next two years after a ruling Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Lausanne-based court halved the four-year ban proposed last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a landmark case that accused Russia of state-ordered tampering of a testing laboratory database in Moscow. The ruling also blocked Russia from bidding to host major sporting events for two years.
Russian athletes and teams will still be allowed to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, as well as world championships including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, if they are not implicated in doping or covering up positive tests.
One small win for Russia is the proposed team name at major events. The name “Russia” can be retained on uniforms if the words “Neutral Athlete” or “Neutral Team” have equal prominence, the court said.
The burden of proof was also shifted away from Russian athletes and more toward WADA when it comes to their doping history being vetted for selection to the Olympics or other sporting events.
Russian athletes and teams can also retain the national flag colours of red, white and blue in their uniforms at major events. That was not possible for Russians at the past two track world championships.
Even with those concessions, the court’s three judges imposed the most severe penalties on Russia since allegations of state-backed doping and coverups emerged after the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) released a statement late Thursday indicating the latest sanctions against Russia are just one more step in the fight for clean sport.
“There are no winners in today’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport confirming non-compliance of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. While the Canadian Olympic Committee recognizes the sanctions and the ongoing cooperation requirements that have been imposed will have real consequences through the next two Olympic Games, there are many questions left unanswered,” the statement read.
The COC also said enforcement of the ban, its consequences on ongoing investigations and further sanctions must still be discussed.
“Moving forward, the strict enforcement of these sanctions, along with the close monitoring of requirements for reinstatement, will be essential to rebuilding trust. The underlying conditions that led to today’s ruling must be addressed in an open and transparent manner. Further, governance of anti-doping structures that is beyond reproach is vital to the integrity of sport and the Olympic Movement.”
WADA president Witold Banka hailed the court’s decision despite the ban being cut to two years.
“The [CAS] panel has clearly upheld our findings that the Russian authorities brazenly and illegally manipulated the Moscow Laboratory data in an effort to cover up an institutionalized doping scheme,” Banka said in a statement.
The case centred on accusations that Russian state authorities altered and deleted parts of the database from the Moscow testing laboratory before handing it over to WADA investigators last year. It contained likely evidence to prosecute long-standing doping violations.
The CAS process was formally between WADA and the Russian anti-doping agency, which refused to accept last year’s four-year ban. The Russian agency, known as RUSADA, was ruled non-compliant last year — a decision upheld Thursday by the three judges.
RUSADA was also ordered to pay WADA $1.27 million US to cover investigation costs, plus it was fined $100,000 US and ordered to pay 400,000 Swiss francs ($452,000 US) toward legal costs.
The Russian agency can appeal the sanctions to the Swiss supreme court in Lausanne.
The acting CEO of RUSADA, Mikhail Bukhanov, said at a news conference in Moscow, “it appears that not all of the arguments presented by our lawyers were heard.”
The judges’ 186-page ruling is expected to be published by CAS in the next few weeks.
In a brief extract in the court’s statement, the judges said their decision to impose punishments less severe than WADA wanted “should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities.”
The ruling does allow Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, to attend major sporting events if invited by the host nation’s head of state.
When a four-day hearing was held in Lausanne last month, 43 Russian athletes and their lawyers took part as third parties arguing they should not be punished for misconduct by state officials not working in sports.
Giving WADA the lab database by a December 2018 deadline was a key condition for RUSADA being reinstated three months earlier when a previous expulsion from the anti-doping community was lifted.
WADA investigators in Moscow eventually got the data one month late. Evidence of doping tests and emails appeared to have been deleted or changed, and whistleblowers like former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov were implicated.
WADA investigators went to Moscow two years ago to collect the database and begin verifying evidence that would help sports governing bodies prosecute suspected doping violations dating back several years.
Although Russia would be stripped of hosting world championships in the next two years, events can be reprieved. Governing bodies have been advised to find a new host “unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so.”
Russia is scheduled to host the 2022 world championships in men’s volleyball and shooting. The president of the shooting federation is Vladimir Lisin, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.
Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) described the database tampering as “flagrant manipulation” and “an insult to the sporting movement.”
On Thursday, the IOC merely noted the verdict, adding it would consult sports governing bodies and the International Paralympic Committee “with a view to having a consistent approach in the implementation of the award.”