17 December 2019

WADA clarifies ban on athletes representing Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has clarified that its ban on athletes representing Russia only covers international multi-sport events or World Championships organised by a Code signatory. This means that footballers will be free to represent their country at the 2020 European Championships, which isn’t a World Championship, but not at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup finals, where they would have to compete as neutrals.

The recommendation of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) was that during the four years in which the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) remains suspended, ‘Russia’s flag may not be flown at any editions of the following events held during the Four Year Period: (a) the Youth Olympic Games (summer and winter); (b) the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (summer and winter); (c) any other event organised by a Major Event Organisation; and (d) any World Championships organised or sanctioned by any Signatory.’ Under the World Anti-Doping Code (page 140), ‘Major Event Organisations’ are defined as ‘The continental associations of National Olympic Committees and other international multi-sport organizations that function as the ruling body for any continental, regional or other International Event’. 

‘UEFA is not a multi-sport organisation and the Euros are not a multi-sport event’, wrote Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the CRC, in an email. ‘Nor are they a World Championship. So they are not covered.’ UEFA is also not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. ‘UEFA has no comment to make on the matter’, wrote a spokesperson in an email.

The exception is athletics, where Russian athletes remain banned from all international competition unless they gain approval to compete as an Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA). World Athletics suspended the ANA approval process and the reinstatement of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) after its Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) charged seven people with tampering and complicity, due to their interference into an investigation into ‘whereabouts’ violations committed by high jumper Danil Lysenko.

It is understood that the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has met a 12 December deadline to respond to charges that its officials gave ‘false explanations and forged documents’ to the AIU. The World Athletics Council mandated the Taskforce on RusAF’s Reinstatement and its Doping Review Board to review whether the ANA mechanism should be continued, but it will only make any recommendation to the World Athletics Council being informed about RusAF’s response by the AIU. It is understood that a decision is imminent.

“Authorised neutral status has been suspended until we are able to have a federation which is able to endorse that”, Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, told the Press Association. “My instinct is until we are absolutely comfortable that we have the continuation of a system we can trust, I am not going to risk or imperil the careers of clean athletes who have probably devoted at least half of their young lives to being at that point. 

“It is often overlooked but I am happy to say this – my overwhelming concern is for the clean athletes because it is their birth right, it is their commitment, it is the hours and hours that they devote to our sport, and I need to protect them. Only when I am absolutely convinced that we are going to reintroduce a federation or athletes back into that system, only when I am absolutely comfortable that they are, as far as we know, clean athletes, then I don’t want to take that risk.”

A representative of Russia’s Ministry of Sport sits on RUSADA’s Supervisory Board…

The Supervisory Board of RUSADA will take a decision on whether to appeal against WADA’s decision to declare it non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code at a 19 December meeting. As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, that seven person Board includes a representative of Russia’s Ministry of Sport, but not Yuriy Ganus (Юрия Гануса) and Margarita Pakhnotskaya (Маргарита Пахноцкая), Director and Deputy Director General of RUSADA.

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