Russia Banned from International Sports for Four Years

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Russian athletes at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, marching behind a neutral flag.
Source: Tarig Panja, “Russian Doping Blurs Innocence and Guilt, with Olympics Caught in the Middle,” nytimes.com, Dec. 2, 2019

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has banned Russia from international sporting events for four years, which also includes a ban on hosting and bidding to host events, and a requirement that any global events scheduled within those four years in Russia be moved from the country. Russia is also banned from bidding to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Additionally, WADA imposed a $100,000 fine, the maximum allowed under the rules.

The ruling restricts Russia from participating in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 2022 World Cup, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, among other events.

The ban applies to Russian officials and sports agencies, which means President Vladimir Putin and other leaders will not be allowed to attend the events or sit on the boards or any organizations that have signed the global antidoping code. However, WADA has offered a pathway for individual athletes to compete under a neutral flag if athletes can prove they are clean, have no drug-positive findings in their records, and are not implicated in the cheating, among other requirements.

The ban was based on findings that data from the Russian Anti-Doping Association (RUSADA) contained inconsistencies, including “significant deletions and/or alterations” made in Dec. 2018 and Jan. 2019 in presumptive positive tests (a test that indicates the possible presence of a drug but not the levels). The Compliance Review Committee of WADA found that RUSADA failed to cooperate during investigations into the doping allegations.

WADA chose not to impose any supervision or takeover of the RUSADA. In order for RUSADA to be reinstated, WADA is requiring that the agency prove that they are independent from outside influence and interference.

WADA President Craig Reedie stated, “Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial. As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts.”

RUSADA may appeal the ban within 21 days to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev stated that WADA’s decision was a “continuation of anti-Russia hysteria” but also noted, “The Russian side, too, — by that I mean our sports community — still has significant problems with doping. This is undeniable.”

Former head of RUSADA Grigory Rodchenkov initially exposed allegations of a doping cover up by the Russian Ministry for Sport at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The scandal implicated more than 1,000 athletes and senior Russian officials, and resulted in a three-year ban for RUSADA. Some Russian athletes participated in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics under a neutral flag. In Sep. 2018, WADA lifted the initial ban subject to requirements that Russia provide access to Moscow lab data and samples.

At the time of the 2018 reinstatement, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets stated that Russia “has done a huge job on creating transparent and clear conditions on the effort on countering doping.” The WADA Executive Committee, however, declared RUSADA non-compliant just one year later. Whistleblower Rodchenkov celebrated news of the Dec. 2019 reinstated ban, stating, “Finally, Russia’s many doping and obstruction sins will now get some of the punishment they richly deserve.”

Chief Executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency Travis T. Tygart felt that the WADA ruling was insufficient, saying, “To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law. And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

 
Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should Russia be excluded from global sporting events? Why or why not?

2. Should athletes be allowed to take performance enhancing drugs? Why or why not?

3. Should Russian athletes be allowed to participate in the Olympics under a neutral flag? Explain your answer.

Sources:

Bill Chappel, “Anti-Doping Agency Bans Russia from International Sports Events for 4 Years,” npr.org, Dec. 9, 2019

Ben Church and Ben Morse, “Russia Banned from 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup over Doping Scandal,” cnn.com, Dec. 9, 2019

Rory Jiwani, “WADA Bans Russia from Major Global Competitions for Four Years,” olympicchannel.com, Dec. 9, 2019

Merrit Kennedy, “World Sports Agency Reinstates Russia after Doping Scandal,” npr.org, Sep. 20, 2018

Tariq Panja, “Russia Banned from Olympics and Global Sports for 4 Years over Doping,” nytimes.com, Dec. 9, 2019

University of Iowa, “Drugs of Abuse,” healthcare.uiowa.edu, Apr. 25, 2019