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Australia backs Russia ban, athletes group unimpressed

Last updated on: December 10, 2019 11:44 IST
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IMAGE: A man carries the Russian flag past the Olympic rings at the Olympic Park during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 22, 2014. (Image used for representative purposes). Photograph: Brian Snyder/File Photo/Reuters

The Australian Olympic Committee have welcomed the decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency to ban Russia from major sporting events, including next year's Tokyo Games, for four years as the sports world began to digest the suspension on Tuesday.

WADA's executive committee acted on Monday after concluding that Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats.

 

Ian Chesterman, the AOC vice-president who will lead the Australian team at the Tokyo Olympics next year, said that WADA had sent a "powerful message" with the unprecedented ban.

"This was a shocking betrayal of fair sport and there are severe consequences for that," he said.

"Every athlete deserves to compete with the confidence they are competing in a clean and fair environment. The fact that this was a systematic attempt to undermine fair sport makes it all the more galling and all the more offensive."

The ban comes as a huge blow to Russian pride and President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow might appeal the decision, as is their right within 21 days.

WADA's decision does leave the door open for "clean" Russian athletes to compete as individuals in Tokyo without their flag or anthem, as was the case when Russia was banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

The decision not to impose a blanket ban was not uniformly welcomed with Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, describing it as "yet another devastating blow to clean athletes."

His view was echoed by Global Athlete, an advocacy group set up by athletes, who said WADA had been "played for fools" by the Russians and was "not fit for purpose".

"Today WADA has robbed athletes worldwide of their right to clean sport due to their inability to enforce the strongest possible sanctions on Russia," it said in a statement.

"Strong sanctions which would include a complete ban of Russia and Russian athletes at all international competitions including the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

Chesterman, however, said that Russian athletes who could prove they were not part of the tainted system must be able to compete.

"While the guilty must be punished, it's only fair that clean athletes from Russia are given the opportunity to compete if they can demonstrate that they were not implicated in any way," he added.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), whose 2020 Tokyo Games will also be impacted by the decision, said they would respect WADA's sanction after the appeal is exhausted.

"The IPC would like to thank WADA for the work they have done in exposing this attempt to cheat the system," the IPC said in a statement.

"Once a final decision has been taken, it will be legally binding across all sports and bodies that are signatories of the World Anti-Doping Code, and must be recognised and enforced by all signatories. This includes the IPC."

The Japanese Olympic Committee said they would not be commenting on the ban.

USADA chief says sanctions have emboldened Russia

Travis Tygart, the US Anti-Doping Agency chief, says Russia has only been emboldened by previous sanctions for its doping violations and the four-year ban imposed on Monday will do nothing to change its behaviour.

WADA's move does leave the door open for "clean" Russian athletes to compete as individuals in Tokyo without their flag or anthem, a decision Tygart has described as "yet another devastating blow to clean athletes".

"Their behaviour hasn't changed," he told Reuters in an interview.

"It has only gotten emboldened and become more egregious every time the global anti-doping community attempts to put a sanction in place.

"The question is -- are we just going to stick our head in the sand and pretend this didn't occur and try to turn the page?"

Russia has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.

Many of Russia's athletes were sidelined from the last two Olympics and Russia was stripped of its flag and national anthem altogether in Pyeongchang as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Tygart said Russia has not taken its punishment seriously for what he called "the greatest fraud in Olympic history".

"In the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 2018 we supported a neutral process for athletes but what we've seen is that has turned into a complete charade and mockery when you have a full delegation from Russia and we know the behaviour has not changed," he added.

Monday's sanctions, which also include a four-year ban on Russia hosting major sporting events, were recommended by WADA's compliance review committee in response to the doctored laboratory data provided by Moscow this year.

US to reap golden benefit from Russia Olympic ban: study

The biggest beneficiaries of Russia's ban at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games ought to be the United States, China and Japan, who should annex 10 of the banned nation's projected gold medals between them, according to data analysts Gracenote.

Russia was slapped with a four-year blanket ban from all major sporting events on Monday by the World Anti-Doping Agency for tampering with doping tests that could have otherwise helped identify drug cheats.

Gracenote's 'Virtual Medal Table' had originally projected that Russia, a powerhouse in many sports, would leave the July 24-Aug. 9 Tokyo Olympics with 68 medals, including 24 gold.

But without Russia in the mix, Gracenote said the United States should win four more gold medals while China and Japan are each projected to win an additional three gold medals.

The United States, who were already expected to dominate the medal table, should win two more gold medals each in men's swimming and men's freestyle wrestling, according to Gracenote.

China's additional golds could feature two in men's artistic gymnastics and one in men's shooting while Japan should see additional gold in artistic swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and men's swimming.

Another 14 nations are projected to earn one additional gold medal each in Russia's absence.

Gracenote's table without Russia now shows the United States leading the way with 53 gold medals, followed by China (44) and hosts Japan (33).

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