Politics

Russia’s WADA Doping Ban A Huge Blow To National Pride

In a unanimous decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Russia has been banned for four years from participating in major international competitions. The reason for the ban is that Russia has not been in compliance with doping rules. Most notably, the country cannot compete in both the World Cup and the Olympics. The ban also extends to hosting international competitions, which is a massive blow to a nation that was just regaining its national sporting pride. After going to great lengths in playing host to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, many believed the pride restored only for it to be threatened in its infancy.

How Does the Ban Work?

At this stage, the ban has not been made official. According to the rules, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has 21 days to accept or appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). All indications point towards an appeal from RUSADA although the decision to appeal or not will be made when the Russians meet on December 19. Aside from the ban, Russia will have to pay $100,000 to WADA to refund the cost of the investigation.

Interestingly, however, Russia’s football team can still compete in some major sporting events such as the upcoming European Championship. This is because UEFA, which is in charge of the Euros, is outside the scope of WADA. Russian athletes who can prove that they are clean can still compete in the banned competitions as neutrals, that is, they will not fly the nation’s flag. In the upcoming 2022 World Cup, the football team can compete as neutrals as well.

Why Has the Ban Been Imposed?

For those who have been following up on this bit of news, they know that this has been a possibility for a while now. Russia has been given every opportunity in the past to make sure that it complied with regulations but RUSADA has not done that. In fact, Russia has been banned quite a number of times before, most notably after the McLaren report of 2016. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, their track-and-field was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations because of doping cover-ups and RUSADA’s lack of compliance.

In 2018, Russia was banned again from the 2018 Winter Olympics again because of doping in 2014. During that ban, just like now, clean athletes were allowed to participate as neutral parties. In addition, 12 Russian athletes lost their medals after a ruling by the CAS. RUSADA was reinstated again in September 2018 on the condition that it would fully cooperate with doping investigations.

RUSADA was not that cooperative after its reinstatement, which has also contributed to the ban. For example, it failed to provide complete access to data from an anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. Instead, the data provided proved incomplete, altered, and falsified. All this proved that there is a wide doping network in the country that could be state-sponsored.

How Has the News Been Received?

The ban has been received with mixed feelings from different parties. For example, the UK Anti-Doping Agency (Ukad) has praised the decision. WADA decided not to impose a complete ban on everyone because of young innocent athletes hence the reason to allow clean competitors to compete as neutrals. Supporting that decision, Ukad states that it is a balance between rights and punishment.

However, the US Anti-Doping Agency has termed the ruling insufficient and weak. In fact, the agency has accused WADA of allowing itself to be influenced by Russia into making the ruling. By escaping such a ban again, WADA has not upheld the rules and the integrity of the sport. The Americans were quick to point out that WADA made a promise to enforce a blanket ban on Russia in 2018 should they break the rules again.

Despite the accusations, WADA’s Jonathan Taylor, who heads the compliance committee, has stood by his decision of a non-blanket ban. He also stated that the blanket ban was avoided because of a potential CAS overruling aside from the innocents factor. It is worth noting that Taylor was previously in support of the ban in 2016.

Back to the Soviet Days?

Most Russians will remember just how bad things were for sport after the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. Most, if not all, are not too keen on that period. Presently, all eyes are on RUSADA and the possible upcoming appeal. It will be curious to see how the Russian pride will respond come the next major competition should the decision be upheld.

 

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