The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has decided to ban Russia for four years from all major sporting events over doping scandal.
It means the Russia flag and anthem will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
But athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag.
WADA’S executive committee took the unanimous decision on Monday in a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. It comes after Russia’s Anti Doping Agency (Rusada) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019, report Reuters and BBC.
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 had been 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.
Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues.
The punishment, however, leaves the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem for four years, as was the case during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Some Russian officials, meanwhile, have branded the call for sanctions unfair and likened it to broader Western attempts to hold back the country.
If RUSADA appeals the sanctions endorsed by WADA’s executive committee within 21 days, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), WADA has said.