Russia was banned from the Olympics and other major world championships on Monday after sporting officials decided to punish it for tampering with doping-related laboratory data in another blow to Russia’s already tarnished sporting reputation.
The decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), imposed a four-year ban on Russia participating in a range of top-flight sporting tournaments, a period covering the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup.
WADA’s executive committee took the decision after concluding that Moscow had tampered with laboratory data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The decision to punish Russia with a ban was unanimous, a WADA spokesman said.
Russia, which has tried to showcase itself as a global sports power, has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
Its doping woes have grown since, with many of its athletes sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Monday’s sanctions, which also include a four-year ban on Russia hosting major sporting events, were recommended by WADA’s compliance review committee in response to the doctored laboratory data provided by Moscow earlier this year.
One of the conditions for the reinstatement of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, which was suspended in 2015 in the wake of the athletics doping scandal but reinstated last year, had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data.
The sanctions effectively strip the agency of its accreditation.
RUSADA head Yuri Ganus could not be immediately be reached for comment. His deputy, Margarita Pakhnotskaya, told the TASS news agency that WADA’s decision had been expected.
Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues.
Russia’s punishment leaves the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem for the next four years, something they did at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Some Russian officials have tried to cast WADA’s behaviour as part of what they say is a broader Western attempt to hold back the country.
Igor Lebedev, a lawmaker and deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said on Monday the move was a serious blow to Russian sport that required a tough response from Russia’s authorities, the RIA news agency reported.
If RUSADA appeals WADA’s punishment, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.