World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has handed a four-year suspension to Russian Athletics Federation from all major sporting events, which includes the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and World Championships. Earlier this year, WADA investigators and International Olympic Committee (IOC) had stated the Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide several potential doping cases. 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 full list of recommendations have been unanimously accepted,” said WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald, speaking at a meeting of the body’s executive committee in Lausanne. “WADA’s executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years,” he added. 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.