Russia Ban Upheld By CAS But WADA 4-Year Global Penalty Watered Down To 2 – Anti-Doping Boss “Disappointed”
The ban on Russia from global sport has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but the latest four-year penalty to be imposed on a country widely criticised for the systematic nature of a doping crisis across many sports has been reduced to two years.
Russian teams (as opposed to individuals cleared to compete under neutral banners) will be barred from the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo, reschedule to July 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Further, the CAS backed WADA’s block on Russia hosting world championship events for the duration of its suspension.
Continental events set to be hosted by Russia can, however go ahead: the suspension only applies at global level, making something of a mockery of the whole process given the nature of sport: the biggest rivals at the Olympic Games and such events are the same people who compete at continental level. In football, Russia will still be able to play at Euro 2020 and host matches, for example.
Russian athletes who can show they were not implicated in the doping scandal can continue to compete at international level with “neutral” status.WADA, welcomed the decision. It had brought the case against Russia after finding it guilty of deliberately erasing and manipulating doping data at its Moscow laboratory in order to cover up the systematic state-sponsored doping unraveled by the inquiry led by Richard McLaren after media expose of the crisis by journalists such as Nick Harris at sporting intelligence in Britain and the Doping Investigations team led by Hajo Seppelt at Germany’s Das Erste TV station and its flagships sports program, Sportsschau.
WADA president Witold Bańka expressed disappointment that the CAS had not “each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested” but welcomed the overall reinforcement of the ban on Russia. In a statement he said:
“Wada is pleased to have won this landmark case. The panel has clearly upheld our findings that the Russian authorities brazenly and illegally manipulated the Moscow Laboratory data in an effort to cover up an institutionalised doping scheme. In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case. In that regard, this ruling is an important moment for clean sport and athletes all over the world.
“We are, however, disappointed that the Cas panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested. But these are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences.
“Russia will not be permitted to participate in, bid for or host any covered event, including two editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and many other major events, for the next two years. The Russian flag will not fly nor its anthem played. This sends a clear message that institutionalised cheating and concerted efforts to subvert the global anti-doping system will not be tolerated.”Witold Bańka
However, CAS’s easing of the penalty from four years to two was described as “nonsensical and undeserved” by Jim Walden, the lawyer for the Russian whistleblower Gregory Rodchenkov, who did much to expose the full extent of the country’s doping programme and sparked the passing of the Rodchenkov Act in the United States this year. Walden was cited by The Guardian and others as saying:
“Despite overwhelming proof of corruption, doping fraud and obstruction of justice, including a brazen attempt to falsely incriminate Dr Rodchenkov through fabricated evidence, CAS has once again proven itself unwilling and unable to meaningfully deal with systematic and long-standing criminality by Russia. CAS reduced the ban by half, allowing Russian athletes to participate in international sporting events anyway, and in effect upheld an already-limited ban in name only.”
In its own CAS said that its decision reflected the “nature and seriousness” of Russian behaviour and it denied that it had shown undue leniency to a country long in denial about its doping crisis. CAS stated:
“The consequences which the panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA. This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency or the Russian authorities. It has considered matters of proportionality and, in particular, the need to effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport.”CAS
The CAS decision comes in a year that saw the court side with WADA to impose an eight-year ban on Chinese swimmer Sun Yang after this author broke the news in the Sunday Times in January 2019 of a FINA Doping panel decision to let the Olympic 200m freestyle champion off with a warning despite the fact that he and his entourage had taken back a doping sample already signed off into the chain of command. Sun Yang’s actions were, CAS judges ruled, “wholly inappropriate”.
The COVID-torn 2020 season also saw Lamine Diack, former IAAF athletics boss and member of the International Olympic Committee jailed for two years by a French court.
In a related process, Valentin Balakhnichev, the ex- head of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) and former treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, were also handed prison sentences for their involvement.
The WADA Statement On CAS’ Russia Ruling
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) acknowledges the ruling today by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to declare the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) for a period of two years and to impose significant consequences. 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.
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.
WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA is pleased to have won this landmark case. We left no stone unturned in investigating this very complex matter and in presenting our case before CAS. The Panel has clearly upheld our findings that the Russian authorities brazenly and illegally manipulated the Moscow Laboratory data in an effort to cover up an institutionalized doping scheme. In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case, in accordance with due process. In that regard, this ruling is an important moment for clean sport and athletes all over the world.
“We are, however, disappointed that the CAS Panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested. We believe they were proportionate and reasonable, but ultimately WADA is not the judge but the prosecutor and we must respect the decision of the Panel. These are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences and the award clearly endorses the resolute, process-driven approach taken by WADA in dealing effectively with this case. Russia will not be permitted to participate in, bid for or host any covered event, including two editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and many other major events, for the next two years. The Russian flag will not fly nor its anthem played. This sends a clear message that institutionalized cheating and concerted efforts to subvert the global anti-doping system will not be tolerated.
“The egregious manipulation by the Russian authorities of data retrieved by WADA Intelligence and Investigations from the Moscow Laboratory was the latest in a long list of offences and it has led today to significant consequences for the authorities. Russian authorities were afforded every opportunity to get their house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of their athletes and the integrity of sport, but they chose instead to continue on their path of deception and denial.”
WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “Today, the global anti-doping program is much stronger than it was at the time of the Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2014, and with the revised World Anti-Doping Code that comes into force on 1 January 2021, the program will be even stronger. The CAS ruling was made possible by the enhancements that have been put in place by WADA since the end of 2014 when the Russian doping program was first exposed. In particular, WADA’s acquisition of investigative powers in 2015 and the growth of our independent Intelligence and Investigations Department have proven to be a game-changer, while the International Standard for Compliance by Signatories (ISCCS) that entered into effect in April 2018 has stood up to this rigorous test. This CAS decision in such a high-profile and complex case demonstrates that the legal framework underpinning anti-doping works and works well.
“WADA’s determination to act resolutely and lawfully in the face of the Russian doping crisis was the correct approach. The diligence of our investigators, the vision of the independent Compliance Review Committee and our ability to take action via the Compliance Standard have enabled WADA to make the right decisions at every stage.
“WADA can now focus its energy on ensuring that those athletes, who were identified as potentially violating the rules as part of our wide-ranging Operation LIMS investigation, are brought to justice. WADA will continue to follow up with the International Federations to which we provided evidence packages in April 2020 as part of Operation LIMS to ensure those cases are dealt with swiftly and appropriately. If they are not, we will continue to exercise our independent right of appeal to CAS.
“It is also crucial that a credible, operationally independent and efficient anti-doping system prevails in Russia for the good of all athletes. To that end, we welcome the CAS Panel’s confirmation that a condition of RUSADA’s reinstatement once the two-year period has elapsed will be that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA’s operational independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference.”
As per Article 10.4.1 of the ISCCS, WADA expects the full reasoned decision will be publicly reported by CAS next week.