Why The Russian Flag Flies Yet In Sport: WADA Sanction On Hold In RUSADA Appeal Process

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Russian athletes may yet compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games under their flag and in full national kit unimpeded by a four-year sanction from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), depending on the pace of an appeal process.

Some swim fans expressed their surprise that the Russian flag and Russian swimmers in national kit were on full view at the FINA Champions’ Series in Shenzhen this week.

However, Russian athletes, including any implicated in the scandal over manipulated test-sample date, are free to continue to compete under their national flag pending the outcome of an appeal against WADA’s decision from RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

WADA’s penalty will only kick in from the date of a CAS decision – and only then if judges at CAS side with WADA.

Jonathan Taylor, head of the Compliance Review Committee that recommended that WADA impose fresh sanctions on Russia, said on the cusp of Christmas that he was confident the ruling would be upheld at CAS. Meanwhile, the appeal process could last up to the door of Tokyo 2020 – or even beyond the Games.

The WADA challenge to CAS in the Sun Yang case began in March 2019, a hearing was held in November and a decision is expected some time this month or soon after. A 10-month process in the RUSADA case would take matters well beyond the Tokyo Games that get underway in July.

A source close to CAS told Swimming World: “The timing of events is taken into consideration but the schedule also has to respect the need for each party in any case to prepare the legal arguments and follow due process.”

The source noted that in terms of competing at the Olympic Games it would not be in the interests of RUSADA and Russian athletes to delay the case until after Tokyo 2020 given that if the case went in favour of WADA, the sanction would then apply to Paris 2024.

It was December 9 last year when WADA imposed a fresh four-year sanction on Russia over the non-compliance to the WADA Code of RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency.

On December 18, RUSADA Supervisory Board chairman Alexander Ivlev announced that the body would contest the WADA decision at the CAS.

WADA’s Executive Committee had voted unanimously to punish Russia after massive manipulation of doping-sample data was unearthed, discoveries that were confirmed by the boss of RUSADA, Yury Ganus.

Ganus told Der Spiegel last October:

“It’s not about deleting entire data packets, but changing or moving them in different places. Someone has tried to hush up information on a large scale. It could also be about athletes’ names. It’s not just about what was, the record of 2015, but also about how the material was changed afterwards. We’re speaking about months, the most recent changes date from December 2018 and January 2019.”

In its announcement of the new sanction, WADA stated:

“Based on the reports, it was clear to the ExCo that the Moscow data were neither complete nor fully authentic. As comprehensively outlined in the reports, some data were removed, others altered and, in some cases, system messages were fabricated in an effort to hamper the work of WADA investigators. In addition, measures were taken to conceal these manipulations 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.”

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Photo Courtesy: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

In response to the sanctions, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, attacked WADA over what he saw as Russia being “punished for the same thing twice”.

The new sanctions were, in fact, imposed for discoveries unearthed since previous sanctions were served.

Putin added: “The WADA decision contradicts the Olympic Charter. If there are no claims against the Russian Olympic Committee, the national team must be competing under the national flag, while we have to render support and assistance. Any punishment should be individual. If anyone is caught, then [punishment] is absolutely natural and fair. But if the overwhelming majority of athletes are clean, how can they slap sanctions on them?”

The answer from WADA is based on the systematic nature of what it calls “fraudulent acts”, including evidence from whistleblowers such as Dr Rodchenkkov that state security officers were involved in the cover up of doping practices.

Outgoing WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said last month before the end of his tenure: “The ExCo’s strong decision today shows WADA’s determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis, thanks to the Agency’s robust investigatory capability, the vision of the CRC, and WADA’s recently acquired ability to recommend meaningful sanctions via the Compliance Standard which entered into effect in April 2018. Combined, these strengths have enabled the ExCo to make the right decisions at the right time.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join 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. As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts.”

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    USA is the real problem… more than the 40% of the total number of doping cases in the world come from the USA (US citizens or training in clubs or universities in the US)-see report from WADA-. Not only that but all major leagues in the US are not liable to the WADA requirements and do not test regularly their athletes… the level of hypocrisy is such that Dave Salo, the coach with more athletes caught with positives in the history of Swimming (US Citizens and foreigners -including Russians-) is US National Team coach!! LOL