Russia has been handed a four-year ban from major international sporting events after being found guilty of manipulating laboratory doping data.
The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday confirmed the punishment, which means Russia will be banned from the likes of the 2020 Olympics and the 2022 World Cup.
Here, we look in more detail at the reasons behind the sanction, what it means, and what might happen next.
So what has Russia done now?
In short, Russia has tried to deceive WADA over a key condition of its reinstatement by the organisation in September last year.
Russia was told to provide an authentic and complete copy of the data from its Moscow laboratory to WADA’s intelligence and investigations team. Instead, WADA investigators found the data handed to them in January 2019 had been intentionally altered – it was inconsistent with a copy supplied by a whistleblower in 2017. Some data was removed and some altered, while system messages were fabricated in a bid to hamper investigators.
Measures were also taken to conceal the manipulation by back-dating computer systems and data files to make it appear as if the data had been in its current state since 2015, when Russia was first declared non-compliant. WADA’s independent compliance review committee recommended Russia be banned for four years and the body’s executive committee unanimously backed that decision on Monday.
What does this ban actually mean?
Russia will not be allowed to compete in any major global competitions, including the likes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, along with other World Championships. They are also banned from hosting or bidding to host such events.
And what about Euro 2020?
Russia’s participation next summer, and the staging of games in St Petersburg, is not affected by the ban, because the European Championship is not a global competition.
So there will be no Russian athletes at the Olympics?
Not quite. Any who can prove they are not implicated in doping in any way will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag.
But definitely none at the World Cup?
That’s not quite true either. With team sports the situation gets more complicated. There will be no Russian flag or anthem, but it is not out of the question there could be a team of Russians competing as neutrals. The ball is in FIFA’s court on that and the world governing body said on Monday it was “in contact with WADA…to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football”.
What has the reaction to the ban been?
Critics like WADA vice president Linda Hofstad Helleland and US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart have condemned it for being too lenient. They insist only a total blanket ban would make Russia face up to the seriousness of its wrongdoing. Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, on the other hand, branded the punishment a symptom of “anti-Russian hysteria”.
So is this the end of the matter?
No chance. Russia has 21 days to appeal against the punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. If it decides not to do so, the ban will become final and start. If it opts to fight it, then the CAS decision will be final.