Belfast Telegraph

Russia handed four-year ban from major sporting events but still able to compete at Euro 2020

Norway's Linda Hofstad Helleland, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) foundation board, answers journalists following a meeting of WADA's executive committee as Russia were banned from global sporting events
Norway's Linda Hofstad Helleland, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) foundation board, answers journalists following a meeting of WADA's executive committee as Russia were banned from global sporting events

Russia has been banned from major international sporting events for four years after being found guilty of manipulating laboratory doping data, according to reports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency have confirmed the punishment in Lausanne after considering recommendations from its independent compliance review committee (CRC).

However, WADA's vice-president Linda Helleland said the ban was "not enough".

"I wanted sanctions that can not be watered down," she said. "We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible."

The judgement means Russia will be banned from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar.

Despite the ban, Russia will still be able to compete at Euro 2020 next summer - in which St Petersburg will be a host city - as European football's governing body UEFA is not defined as a 'major event organisation' with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

Russian athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will also be able to compete in other events under a neutral flag.

WADA's executive committee took the decision after it concluded 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 WADA committee's decision to punish Russia with a ban was unanimous, the 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 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, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), WADA has said.

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