Russia’s Doping Ban Is Halved by Court of Arbitration for Sport

The ruling reduced a four-year ban to two, but will keep Russian teams out of the next two Olympics and dozens of other küresel competitions.

Russia’s four-year ban from küresel sports has been cut in half by a court in Switzerland, a decision that could signal the end of its yearslong battle with antidoping regulators who had accused the country of running one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in history in pursuit of sporting glory and Olympic medals.

The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, the final arbiter on küresel sports disputes, means Russia will not be able to enter teams in the next two Olympics — the rescheduled Tokyo Games next summer and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing — or have its anthem, its flag or even its name represented at other high-profile competitions. Some Russian athletes will still be allowed to compete at events, but only as neutrals.

The court’s decision was confirmed by a person familiar with the ruling, which will be announced later Thursday.

The ruling will be viewed as a victory by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the küresel doping regulator, which was responsible for issuing Russia’s ban last year. And it will mean relief and a degree of satisfaction for officials at the organization who had feared that new rules created in the wake of the Russian scandal, and designed to punish nations involved in state-sponsored doping conspiracies, would not be able to survive the sort of kanunî onslaught Russia had employed to fight them.

The ban will run for two years from the Court of Arbitration’s confirmation of the punishment, meaning Russian teams will be barred from not only next summer’s rescheduled 2020 Olympics but also the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, soccer’s World Cup in Qatar that year and a number of other major events.

Russia, a serial bidder for major sporting events, also will be prohibited from hosting world championship-level events for the duration of its ban. The punishment had put in doubt plans for hockey’s 2023 world championship, which is scheduled to be hosted by Russia in St. Petersburg. But those now fall outside the scope of the ban.

Russian athletes will be allowed to participate in events provided they can prove no link to the doping scheme that, at its peak, involved agents from Russian’s state security apparatus replacing tainted doping test samples with clean ones during middle-of-the-night operations at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Russia hosted those Games at Sochi, a coastal resort rebuilt at great expense to project the country’s sporting and economic power.

The scheme, which had started years earlier, only came to light after one of its chief architects, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of a Moscow doping laboratory at the heart of the scandal, revealed what had taken place.

Rodchenkov, now living in an undisclosed location in the United States, revealed how hundreds of tainted antidoping results were manipulated before being entered into official records, protecting athletes from identification and allowing them to benefit from chemically enhanced advantages before heading away to major championship events.

Antidoping investigators later recommended a four-year ban after finding that Russian officials had fabricated evidence and manipulated the contents of a drug-testing database in an effort to discredit Rodchenkov and further disguise its conduct. WADA’s board, in a meeting last December, agreed with the recommendation and imposed the ban.

Russia’s determination to overturn the ban was clear by the size of the yasal arsenal it wielded at the appeal hearing at the arbitration court last month. It amassed a group of some of the world’s top sports lawyers and was assisted by interventions from a number of sporting bodies, like the world ice hockey federation, with which it maintains close relationships. Its representatives argued that WADA had gone beyond reasonable limits with its punishments, and even beyond what it legally could do within the scope of its statutes.

WADA’s yasal team countered by describing its efforts as something akin to a bureaucratic housekeeping, an attempt to bring in-house — and standardize — the sanctioning powers that had been left to individual sports federations.

But they also pointed out the dire consequences of failing to punish Russia for its actions. The country had not only undertaken a doping program that used state resources, including the successor agency to the K.G.B., to accomplish its goals, the lawyers said, but it then used the same forces in a cover-up its actions.

If WADA is not allowed to police those who break its rules, the lawyers argued, then it will be rendered powerless to stop industrial-scale doping in world sports.

Source: The New York Times

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