Russia has been handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It means the Russia flag and anthem will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag.
WADA’s executive committee made the unanimous decision in a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. It comes after Russia’s Anti Doping Agency (RUSADA) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019. It had to hand over data to WADA as a condition of its controversial reinstatement in 2018 after a three-year suspension for its vast state-sponsored doping scandal. WADA says Rusada has 21 days to appeal against the ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). WADA vice-president Linda Helleland said the ban was “not enough”. “I wanted sanctions that can not be watered down,” she said. “We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.” A total of 168 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the country was banned following the 2014 Games, which it hosted in Sochi. Russian athletes won 33 medals in Sochi, 13 of which were gold. Russia has been banned from competing as a nation in athletics since 2015. Despite the ban, Russia will be able to compete at Euro 2020 – in which St Petersburg will be a host city – as European football’s governing body UEFA is not defined as a ‘major event organisation’ with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.