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Russia set for major events hosting ban under Wada sanctions

Russia is poised to avoid a blanket ban from the Olympic Games and other major sporting events, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has recommended that the country be prevented from hosting competitions for a four-year period due to an “extremely serious” case of non-compliance.

Wada yesterday (Monday) made the details of its independent Compliance Review Committee’s (CRC’s) recommendation on the status of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) public, with the proposed sanctions to be considered by its Executive Committee at a meeting on December 9.

Wada on Friday announced that a recommendation of non-compliance had been levelled against Rusada, but has now spelled out the exact nature of the breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and the proposed consequences of them.

The sanctions will come into effect for a four-year term at which Rusada is officially declared non-compliant. They include the provision that Russia may not host, bid for, or be granted in the four-year period, the right to host any major sporting events.

Where the right to host a major event in the period has already been awarded to Russia, the signatory must withdraw that right and re-assign the event to another country, unless it is legally or “practically impossible” to do so. In addition, Russia may not bid for the right to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, irrespective of whether the bidding takes place during or after the four-year period.

This calls into question a number of major events Russia holds rights to, including games during Uefa Euro 2020 and the staging of the 2021 final of European football’s governing body’s showpiece club competition, the Champions League. Both the latter event, and four games during Euro 2020, are set to take place in St. Petersburg, however Alexei Sorokin, head of Russia’s local organising committee for Euro 2020, has expressed his confidence that these rights will be retained.

“We have already said that our partner is Uefa,” Sorokin said, according to state news agency Tass. “It would be weird for us as organisers to see any kind of discussion about changes, given our degree of preparedness. We hope that Wada recommendations will be treated in an adequate manner.

“It’s hard for me to think of possibility or impossibility (of Russia being stripped of the hosting rights). Our work to prepare the tournament is the only way for us to respond to those developments. What we hear from our (Uefa) colleagues is that they are quite pleased (with Russia’s preparations).”

Other major events to which Russia has already secured hosting rights include the 2023 men’s Ice Hockey World Championships. Other sanctions proposed by Wada include that Russian athletes and their support personnel may only participate in major events staged where they are able to demonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance.

This is likely to mean that for the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, and other events, Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. For the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang, 168 Russians competed under the banner ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia.’

The CRC recommendation was based on reports by Wada Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) and independent forensic experts, which were considered by the CRC during a meeting on November 17, regarding a number of inconsistencies found in some of the data that was retrieved by Wada from the Moscow Laboratory in January.

Wada I&I’s subsequent assessment included consideration of responses from the Russian authorities to a list of detailed and technical questions, including follow-up questions, raised by the I&I and the forensic experts.

These questions gave Rusada and the Russian Ministry of Sport an opportunity to explain the inconsistencies, as part of Wada’s September decision to open a formal compliance procedure against Rusada.

Wada reinstated Rusada in September 2018, overturning the suspension handed out in November 2015 amid the doping scandal that enveloped Russian sport. The reinstatement came with the agreement that all data from the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and the underlying analytical data generated by the former Moscow Laboratory was retrieved by December 31 last year.

Rusada and the Russian authorities missed this deadline but Wada announced it had successfully received the data in mid-January, leading to it supplying International Federations (IFs) with its first batch of data relating to the Russian investigation in July.

Wada in September said that further investigation of inconsistencies in the Moscow Laboratory data has led it to open a formal compliance procedure against Rusada. Ensuring the authenticity of the LIMS and underlying raw data was one of the critical conditions imposed by the ExCo for Rusada to be reinstated as Code-compliant in September 2018.

In its statement yesterday, Wada fleshed out the reasons behind the “critical” failure to provide an authentic copy of the Moscow lab data. Wada said the Moscow data is “neither complete nor fully authentic”.

In particular, while the 2019 copy of the LIMS database matches “in many respects” the 2015 copy of the LIMS database provided to Wada by a whistleblower in 2017, hundreds of presumptive adverse analytical findings that appear in the 2015 copy of the LIMS database have been removed from the 2019 copy, and the related underlying raw data and PDF files have been deleted or altered.

Wada said: “Some of the presumptive positive findings and related evidence were removed in 2016 or 2017, after the general scheme to cover up the doping of Russian athletes was first revealed by Dr (Grigory) Rodchenkov and then quickly confirmed by Prof. Richard McLaren’s investigation (Part 1 and Part 2).

“However, further significant deletions and/or alterations were made in December 2018 and January 2019 (i.e. after the Wada ExCo imposed the data requirement). These activities were concealed by back-dating of computer systems and data files in an attempt to make it appear that the Moscow data had been in their current state since 2015. Furthermore, the commands issued to execute the manipulations, deletions and back-dating were also deleted, in an attempt to avoid detection of what had been done.”

In addition, on or after November 25, 2018, after the data requirement was imposed, but before January 10, 2019, before the Moscow data were made available to the Wada team, the Agency said someone in the Moscow laboratory planted fabricated evidence into the LIMS database to support the argument being advanced by Russian authorities that it was Rodchenkov and two co-conspirators who falsified entries in the Moscow LIMS database as part of a scheme to extort money from athletes.

Important evidence from the LIMS database is also said to have been deleted proving that another laboratory staff member was involved in the cover-up of doping by Russian athletes in 2014 and 2015. Wada added: “That staff member is currently an important witness for the Russian side in several cases, in which he denies there was any conspiracy to protect Russian athletes from exposure for doping, and calls Dr. Rodchenkov a liar.”

Following the December 9 meeting, and any rubber-stamping of the proposed sanctions, Rusada and Russia can take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, Rusada president Yuri Ganus has said he sees no legal grounds through which the punishments can be challenged.

He told Tass: “Rusada sees no legal grounds to dispute such decisions by the Wada Executive Committee because they comply with consequences of the international standard of compliance by the signatories. The deprivation of Rusada’s compliance status is of technical nature, (it took place) due to the failure to meet one of the criteria for maintaining Rusada’s conditional compliance.

“Let me remind you that Rusada was granted conditional and not unconditional compliance. And the first essential requirement linked with the transfer of the database unaltered has not been fulfilled. The experts working for the sports authorities failed to provide clear and reasonable explanations on inconsistencies and this was important. This served as the cause for technical non-compliance and there are no grounds to dispute it.”

Responding to Wada’s announcement, the International Olympic Committee today said it will support the “toughest sanctions” against all those responsible for the manipulation of the Moscow lab data. The IOC added in a statement: “The IOC once again requests that the Russian authorities deliver the raw data on which this case is based.

“This is still a matter of huge importance, since the delivery of any fully authenticated raw data will ensure that full justice can finally be done, and that the guilty can be properly punished and the innocent fully protected. In this way, the shadow of suspicion over the new generation of clean Russian athletes can be removed.

“We note that the report proves that any manipulation of the data is the sole responsibility of the Russian authorities: ‘The Russian authorities were responsible for preserving the integrity of the Moscow Data.’ At the same time, we also note that the report finds that the sports movement has not been involved in any of this manipulation, and that the report does not indicate any wrongdoing by the sports movement in this regard, in particular the Russian Olympic Committee or its members.

“In this context, the IOC welcomes the opportunity offered by Wada to Russian athletes to compete, ‘where they are able to demonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance’.

“With regard to the sanctions following this manipulation, we will still have to evaluate these in detail. The IOC emphasises that any sanctions should follow the rules of natural justice and respect human rights.

“Therefore, the IOC stresses that the guilty should be punished in the toughest way possible because of the seriousness of this infringement and thus welcomes the sanctions for the Russian authorities responsible.

“However, given the seriousness of the manipulation, we strongly urge Wada to take further action. This means, in particular, that Wada should refer all these files to the Council of Europe and UNESCO, having regard to the Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention and the UNESCO International Convention Against Doping in Sport.”