Russia’s ban from Olympics upheld by Court of Arbitration for Sport, but term is reduced

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday upheld an international sports ban levied against Russia for doping, but cut the duration of the ban in half from four years to two.

The long-awaited ruling, handed down by a panel of three arbitrators at the Swiss-based court, will bar Russia's flag and anthem from appearing at each of the next two Olympic Games, among other major international competitions through Dec. 16, 2022. 

Though the court reduced the duration of the ban, its ruling nevertheless represents a victory for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which implemented the ban last year after WADA investigators found that Russia had tampered with drug-testing data.

"This Panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance (to the World Anti-Doping Code) and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained," the arbitrators wrote in the decision.

Barring an appeal to Switzerland's supreme court, Russia will now have no formal presence at the Tokyo Olympics next summer, nor the Winter Olympics in Beijing or World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

Some Russian athletes will likely be able to compete under a neutral flag, however, as long as they are not linked to the country's doping program. 

The CAS ruling marks the latest chapter in a Russia doping saga that has now spanned nearly a decade. 

In 2016, a WADA-sponsored investigation found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes in at least 30 sports were involved in, or benefitted from, state-sponsored doping programs from 2011 to 2015 — including at the 2012 and 2014 Olympics. The violations led WADA to suspend RUSADA, Russia's anti-doping agency, for nearly three years.

Then, just months after conditionally reinstating RUSADA in the fall of 2018, WADA requested drug-testing data from a lab in Moscow. But it found that the data had been "intentionally altered prior to and while it was being forensically copied," in what it described as another Russian attempt at deception.

WADA responded last December by declaring RUSADA to be non-compliant, and banning Russia from having a formal presence at major sporting events for four years, while allowing athletes who are deemed clean to compete under a neutral flag. Some in the anti-doping community, including U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, had called for a blanket ban of Russian athletes competing altogether.

RUSADA refused to accept that punishment and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which heard the case at a four-day hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland in November. WADA said it requested that the hearing be open to the media and other observers, but other parties in the case declined.

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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