The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over manipulated doping data, prompting an angry response from President Vladimir Putin.
WADA’s executive committee, meeting in Lausanne, handed Russia the “robust” four-year suspension after accusing Moscow of falsifying data from a doping testing laboratory that was handed over to investigators earlier this year.
The toughest ever sanctions imposed on Russian state authorities will see government officials barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host or bid for tournaments.
“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.
“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin 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.”
Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but only as neutrals and if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
It is right that Russia be formally banned from the Olympics. It is beyond doubt that they have a state sanctioned and organised doping programme, and that even when caught out, the state forges documents to try and cover up.
But I do wonder if merely banning the country from formal participation is enough. Many Russian athletes will still get to compete, and we won’t know if they are clean. And the Russian Government will still be quite capable of adding up the medals won by those athletes and claiming victory for the country if they win.
The only way to get Russia to stop is to make the consequences of their cheating so painful that Russians, and especially Russian athletes, demand the Government halt its state doping programme.
And that means a total ban on all competitors from Russia. Unfair to the few clean ones, but how else do you get the incentives right?