Today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided Russia will not be represented or recognized officially at the 2021 Tokyo or 2022 Beijing Olympics. The ruling, handed down on Dec. 17, mostly concludes a long-winded judicial process between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
WADA had originally sanctioned RUSADA to a major competition ban of four years. Today’s CAS ruling, although seemingly in agreement with WADA’s arguments, reduced that penalty to two years.
CAS found RUSADA to be non-compliant with the WADA code for failing to deliver timely and unadulterated LIMS data from the Moscow Lab. During the ongoing saga between WADA and RUSADA, the Russians continually failed to meet deadlines and eventually handed over manipulated data. These data included anti-doping testing information for specific athletes. The WADA investigation into RUSADA wrongdoing began after the 2014 Sochi Games. WADA eventually concluded Russia was guilty of state-sponsored doping.
Similar to the penalty for Russia during the 2018 Winter Games, today’s decision allows Russians that meet the CAS standards to compete in or attend the Olympics or Paralympics to do so wearing a “neutral athlete” uniform. In PyeongChang, Russian athletes competed and marched in uniforms emblazoned with “OAR” – Olympic Athlete from Russia. The Russian flag was not flown and their national anthem not played during medal ceremonies in PyeongChang.
According to CAS, the penalties apply to World Championships “organised or sanctioned by a WADA signatory”. The International Ski Federation (FIS) is a WADA signatory.
The penalties outlined in the decision come into effect on December 17, 2020, and last for two years.
Response to today’s ruling was mixed.
WADA appeared satisfied with the ruling. “This decision confirms in large part the recommendation made in November 2019 by WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC), which was unanimously accepted by the Agency’s Executive Committee (ExCo) on 9 December 2019,” claimed WADA’s statement.
“Today’s CAS ruling is a clear endorsement of WADA’s assertion that data from the Moscow Laboratory were intentionally altered prior to and while they were being forensically copied by WADA Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) in January 2019as part of Operation LIMS, in contravention of critical criteria set by the ExCo when RUSADA was reinstated as compliant, under strict conditions, in September 2018.”
Global Athlete, an organization bent on reforming international and Olympic sport, had harsh words. In an emailed statement, Global Athlete articulated they were unsatisfied with the water-downed ruling:
“The decision taken by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), released today, has dealt yet another damaging blow to clean sport and the athlete community. Through a series of recommendations that include reducing the 4-yr mandatory sanction imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), to 2-yrs, CAS has diluted and weakened an already compromised sanction – demonstrating once again they are unfit for purpose.
“The fact that Russian Athletes can compete as “Neutral Athletes from Russia” is another farcical façade that makes a mockery of the system. If athletes from Russia can still compete, it is not a sanction. Russia has not been banned; they have simply been rebranded.”
“In addition to halving the length of the “sanction”, the CAS decision demonstrated clear preferential treatment for members of the Olympic movement, by lifting previous sanctions on Russian members of the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and elected International Federation representatives and permitting them to attend the Olympic/Paralympic Games and World Championships.”