Russian athletes can compete 'under neutral banner' in spite of national doping ban

Last Updated 17 December 2020, 17:31 IST

Threatened with a four-year ban from international competition, Russian athletes have largely been spared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which reduced the suspension to two years while allowing them to compete under a neutral banner.

AFP Sport looks at what's next for Russian competitors:

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wanted to punish Russia for repeated cheating and the cover-up of an institutionalised doping system, by excluding the country's athletes from major competitions for four years.

Only those who could prove that they were not a part of the doping programme could escape the ban. The Russians considered such collective punishment indefensible and contrary to the fundamental rights of the athletes concerned.

The three judges appointed by CAS wanted to "encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport" and therefore greatly reduced the ban for state cheating.

In spite of the ban, however, there will be Russian athletes at major competitions from now until December 2022, provided that they are not "subject to any suspension by a competent authority".

But for that to happen, they will have to line up under a neutral flag, in an outfit without a Russian badge or lettering. The ruling decrees that neutral athletes will not be permitted to show the Russian flag in public.

They will also be barred from displaying the name "Russia" or "any emblem or symbol of the Russian Federation".

On top of that, the Russian anthem cannot be played in any world competition during this two-year period, which includes the Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021 and those in Beijing in the winter of 2022.

A doubt remains however for Russian track and field, target of the first revelations of institutionalised doping in 2014.

The athletes are still facing a possible outright exclusion by World Athletics.

WADA's proposed four-year ban, formulated in December 2019, was to include three Olympic meetings including Paris 2024.

CAS arbitrators have reduced the sanction against Russia to two years making Paris a possibility but they have also set down a series of conditions for reinstatement.

Failure to comply would leave the Russians open to new sanctions.

The Russian anti-doping agency, Rusada, will have to pay $1.27 million to WADA and, above all, restore the authentic state of the files at the Moscow laboratory and investigate all suspected cases covered by this cheating.

While waiting for the full 186-page CAS decision, the situation of the Russian football team is not entirely clear.

As WADA's sanctions are limited to major international events, that is to say those which award a world or Olympic title, the Russian football team is still at liberty to compete in next year's delayed Euros, as well as in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers which are organised on a continental basis.

There remains the question of the World Cup finals in Qatar which end on December 18, 2022, two days after the CAS ban ends.

In theory, the team could line up in a neutral jersey, but the CAS press release does not explain how the ban will apply to a team sport.

(Published 17 December 2020, 17:17 IST)

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