Russia Banned from Olympics over Doping Scandal

Aircraft leave trails in colors of Russian flag during a visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 15, 2019. (Olesya Astakhova/Reuters)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced Monday that Russia will be banned from a range of international competitions — including the Olympics and the World Cup — for four years after new allegations of state-sanctioned manipulation of drug-test data were found credible.

The decision is the latest humiliation in Russian athletics, which first became implicated in a doping scandal when WADA found evidence of mass doping in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. As punishment for the initial scandal, Russia was not officially represented at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games, but unaffected athletes were allowed to compete without affiliation.

WADA reached the same decision Monday, banning Russia from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and the 2022 World Cup, but still opening the door for Russian athletes to compete. The organization will now move to ban athletes found guilty of doping, but its investigation revealed that 145 suspicious cases may be unsolvable, raising the likelihood that athletes who cheated could compete in Tokyo.

Linda Helleland, the Norwegian outgoing vice president of the agency, told reporters she was frustrated with the extent of the punishment, saying she wanted to ensure that Russian athletes would not be able to compete independently.

“I am not happy with the decision we made today,” Helleland said. “This was as far as we could go.”

The allegations stemmed from discrepancies in data provided to WADA by Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, which was seeking reinstatement after being suspended in 2015. In September, allegations emerged that Moscow had changed or deleted data in an effort to cover up — at minimum — dozens of violations.

Yuri Ganus, the head of RUSADA, confirmed the data had been manipulated in October, and told the New York Times following Monday’s decision that the punishment was logical, but called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to become involved in an appeal to save athletes who had no part in the scheme.

“I think there is only one person who can change the situation,” Ganus said.

If RUSADA appeals WADA’s punishment, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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