The five-ring Olympic icon is seen in the yard of the Russian Olympic Committee building in Moscow, Russia, Nov 28, 2019. (PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AP)
Russia was banished from the Olympics and other international competitions for four years on Monday over a persistent doping scandal, a decision that also threatens to turn President Vladimir Putin and top Kremlin officials into global sporting pariahs.
The World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia’s national team after officials in Moscow were accused of fabricating evidence to cover up the use of banned substances by the country’s athletes. Individual athletes who comply with strict conditions will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, while WADA ordered a ban on Russian government officials or representatives attending events.
The punishment means Russia will be kept out of next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar
The measures were “approved unanimously,” WADA said after a meeting of its executive committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news service. Russia can appeal the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.
The punishment means Russia will be kept out of next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar. The ban may also prevent Russia hosting matches in the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championships next summer, for which the national team has qualified. Russia will also be barred from bidding to host any major championships during the four-year period, extending to include the 2032 Summer Olympics.
WADA’s decision followed recommendations last month from its compliance review committee after experts found anomalies in drug test results recovered from a Moscow laboratory in January, under an agreement in September 2018 to lift a previous three-year ban imposed over Russia’s state-backed doping program. The Russian anti-doping chief Yuriy Ganus, who has backed the tough international response, said thousands of doping tests were deleted or modified and he blamed influential former athletes for the deception.
Chronology of the Russian doping scandal from the first revelations in 2014. (GRAPHIC / AFP)
The penalties are a humiliation for Putin, who personally oversaw the spending of tens of billions of dollars to host the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2018 soccer World Cup as part of his efforts to restore Russia’s Soviet-era image as a sporting superpower. After placing first in the medals table at Sochi, the most expensive Winter Games in history, Russia has since been stripped of 13 of its 33 medals as the scale of its doping program at the games emerged.
Russian track and field athletes were subsequently barred from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Russian athletes were only allowed to compete under the Olympic flag.
The Kremlin denies the doping allegations, denouncing what it says is an anti-Russian campaign. But the International Olympic Committee has backed WADA, describing the test tampering as a “flagrant manipulation” that is an “attack on the credibility of sport.”
An independent investigation commissioned by WADA found in 2016 that Russian sports officials oversaw a vast program to manipulate doping test results from 2011 to 2015, and that athletes’ positive urine samples were swapped out during the Sochi Olympics.
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