Olympics Bans Russia, One Less Competitor for America

Monday, an order was issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency stating Russia will be out of the Olympics for the next four years for doping violations and their flag, and anthem will not be seen or heard.  The proposal was issued last month by the Olympics compliance review committee.  Among the 12 members, the vote was unanimous for an international ban on Russia for up to four years.  The WADA found through their investigations, Russia tampered with the data from the drug test earlier in the year.

Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) has three weeks to appeal the decision by the WADA.  They are expected to carry out with the appeal, and the Court of Arbitration for Sports will handle their case.

There is, however, a loophole for Russian athletes to compete.  As long as the Russian athletes and teams were not involved in the scandal, they will be allowed to compete.  In the 2018 Winter Olympics, the athletes attended and competed under a neutral flag called “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”  Russia will not have a formal presence at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan, and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China.

The president of the WADA stated, “Monday’s decision illustrated the agency’s desire to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis.  For too long, Russian doping has detracted from the clean sport.  The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the (executive committee) in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today.”

Stakeholders in the Olympics harshly criticized the WADA’s decision and punishment.  They feel the punishment should be worse, and all Russian athletes should be banned.  They should not even be able to participate even under the neutral flag.  U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart put out this statement, “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.”

The WADA has been watching Russia, and they have been in the agency’s crosshairs as far back as the 2012 Olympics in London, England.  Investigations uncovered there were over 1,000 athletes from Russia who were involved in the doping scandal in 2016.  Going back to 2014, at the Olympics in Sochi, it was revealed that Russian agents swapped out dirty urine samples for clean samples and did it through a hole in the wall.

Since Russia was noncompliant, with the WADA’s policy and violated the code, RUSADA was also suspended.  In 2018, there was a conditional reinstatement but broke the code again.  The third time is a charm, right?  Not in this case, the case will now be taken to court with the appeal. Still, with the evidence the WADA gathered, it is highly unlikely the decision will be appealed.  Many agree with the critics, it is still a slap on the wrist.

The icing on the cake came when the WADA demanded the drug testing data from a Moscow lab, the data was altered, removed, or “fabricated in an effort to hamper the work of WADA investigators.”  Many involved with the Olympics hope this punishment sets an example for everyone else and hopes Russia will learn its lesson.

Grigory Rodchenkov, who is a whistleblower in the scandal, stated, “There is a whole generation of clean athletes who have painfully abandoned their dreams and lost awards because of Russian cheaters.  We need to take the strongest action to bring justice back to the sport.”

Included in the punishment issued by the WADA, Russian officials and representatives will not be allowed to participate, host, or attend any of the events during the duration of the punishment.  They also added, “Russia isn’t allowed to bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032 irrespective of whether the bidding takes place during or after the four-year ban.

The chair of the WADA’s compliance review committee stated, “The goal of the sanctions was to be tough on Russia without punishing the innocent.  While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the (compliance review committee), which includes an athlete, that in this case those who could prove their innocence should not be punished.”

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