Russia handed two-year doping ban in ‘catastrophic blow to clean sport’

LAUSANNE (AFP) – Sport’s highest court on Thursday banned Russia from the international stage for two years, including the Tokyo Olympics next year and 2022 Beijing Winter Games, but the halving of the initial punishment was blasted as “a catastrophic blow to clean athletes and the integrity of sport”.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) ruling cut a four-year ban for systematic doping imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“This Panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance…and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained,” said CAS in its judgement.

The statement added, “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 RUSADA (Russia’s anti-doping watchdog) or the Russian authorities.”

The ban runs until December 16, 2022, so includes football’s World Cup finals in Qatar which ends two days later.

Under the decision Russians will still be allowed to compete, but only as neutrals if they can prove no connection to doping. It had sparked widespread condemnation.

“USADA acknowledges the devastating decision…in the Russia case that hands WADA and clean athletes a significant loss,” US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart said.

“At this stage in this sordid Russian state-sponsored doping affair, now spanning close to a decade, there is no consolation in this weak, watered-down outcome,” he added.

He called it “a catastrophic blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport, and the rule of law”.