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Doping agency WADA bans Russia from international competitions

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) informed the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) that Russia will be banned from major sporting events for four years.

Published: December 9, 2019, 1:30 pm

    The decision was made unanimously in Lausanne, Switzerland, at a WADA Executive Committee meeting. President of WADA, Craig Reedie, said the “blatant violation” of RUSADA’s reinstatement terms by Russian authorities, resulted in this very drastic measure.

    Moscow will not participate in Tokyo 2020 and the Beijing Winter Games 2022 and has already announced an appeal: “We are ready to defend ourselves.”

    In 2015, WADA launched compliance proceedings against RUSADA for an allegedly large-scale state-funded doping scheme involving thousands of athletes, coaches and sports officials. This forced Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea even though Russia had strenuously denied the claims.

    In September 2018, the ban was lifted but RUSADA was required to offer WADA access to the database of Russian athlete records but in September 2019 another non-compliance procedure was launched over suspected data manipulation. WADA said that some of the records had been “altered”.

    Thus, in the most recent case, WADA maintains that Russia manipulated doping test data. Its Compliance Review Committee recommended to the Executive Committee that Russia should no longer have the right to host or bid to host major sporting events.

    That would mean that for four years, Russia would be unable to host any world championships or Olympic Games, said Deputy General Director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency Margarita Pakhnotskaya on Monday.

    It includes Russia losing its right to take part in these international events. Russian athletes will now only be able to compete under a neutral status, which essentially bans the use of the Russian flag and hymn at competitions.

    According to reports from the ItalPress agency, the sanction will also be extended to sports managers and government members, who will not be able to attend sporting events in any way.

    Additionally, they will only be able to participate in such events provided they can prove they have not violated the international anti-doping code. However, according to the ruling.

    Russian sports officials, including members of Russia’s Olympic and Paralympic committees, are now effectively banned from attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing, in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

    Only the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne will be exempt from WADA’s recommendations.

    WADA’s “independent” laboratories are however all subordinated to WADA and, in many cases, depend on it financially, Erik Boye, a renowned Norwegian cell biology scientist and professor emeritus at the Institute for Biosciences of the University of Oslo, pointed out.

    Jules Heuberger, a specialist in clinical pharmacology at the Leiden Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, noted in a peer reviewed study in Sports Medicine in April, that the vast majority of substances on WADA’s list, cannot actually be considered performance enhancers.

    According to Heuberger, these substances have not been sufficiently tested to be deemed doping agents. “Only 5 of 23 substance classes show evidence of having the ability to enhance actual sports performance,” Heuberger said, adding that “for 11 classes, no well-designed studies are available.”

    In the six remaining classes on the WADA list: they were already proven to have nothing to do with performance-enhancing effects.

    The Russian anti-doping agency has 21 days to appeal to the International Sports Arbitration Tribunal (TAS) in Lausanne, which will then issue a final decision once they have heard the reasons presented by the Russians. Moscow’s hopes are not high however, however, as the head of RUSADA, Yury Ganus, bitterly admitted: “There is no chance of winning this case in court”.

    In recent days the the clash between Russia and the World Anti-Doping Agency had already started simmering. On November 26,WADA’s Independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) called for new sanctions against Moscow because it was guilty of “an extremely serious case of non-compliance with the obligation to provide a true copy of the data”.

    Russian officials were surprised and spoke of “excessive harshness and damage to sport in Russia”.

    Immediately afterwards, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) intervened, asking for stricter actions and penalties against those who will be found responsible for manipulating data since it represents “an attack on the credibility of sport and is an insult to the sports movement all over the world”.

    To make matters worse, Travis Tygart, head of the US anti-doping agency (USADA), demanded a general ban on Russian athletes at the Tokyo Games, saying that the WADA must be stricter and impose the full restriction on the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympics that the rules allow, since only such a resolute response has the possibility of attracting the attention of Russia, changing their behavior and protecting clean athletes competing in Tokyo. He said that future generations of athletes in Russia deserve more than a “cynical” and weak answer.

    Russia said it was ready to cooperate, but Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said: “There is an ongoing politicization of the matter to kick out Russia. There is a term for this thing: unfair competition. It is a battle without rules, perhaps we are already at war.”

    She added: “The doping problem is focused exclusively on Russia, the other countries are not talked about at all.”

    The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach has been criticised for treating Russia “too mildly” after he noted that only the “democratically elected athletes from the IOC’s own Athletes Committee could be regarded as true representatives of athletes”.

    His viewpoint has been contested, especially because WADA’s athlete committee, a number of athlete unions and other anti-Russian activist groups are have protested against the way the IOC and its Athlete Committee has dealt with Russia.

    It is very difficult to believe that doping incidents have not happened elsewhere in the world. But as the old adage goes: the laws apply to enemies and are interpreted for friends.

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