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Russian sports has been plagued by doping scandals and allegations of a cover-up.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has completed an investigation into nearly 300 Russia athletes, with almost half showing evidence of manipulation of anti-doping test results.

WADA said in a statement on April 30 that it has handed over the cases of 298 athletes to 28 anti-doping organizations, including 27 international sports federations.

Of those investigated, the files of 145 athletes were marked for manipulation.

WADA said the relevant international organizations would have to decide on what action to take against each doping case.

But it also said it has the option to bring cases to a sports arbitration court if action against doping isn’t taken “in a reasonable time frame.”

“The fact that we have moved to the results management phase now for the entire target group means we are another step closer to bringing those who cheated to justice. This has always been the objective for us as we continue to do what is best for clean sport and athletes around the world,” said Gunter Younger, the director of WADA’s independent intelligence and investigations team.

WADA investigators sifted through 24 terabytes of data and thousands of samples on a computer archive it obtained in 2019 from a disgraced Moscow laboratory and the facility's Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), where doping cases were covered up.

WADA said its investigators faced hurdles due to alleged Russian manipulation of the data archive and other attempts to throw them off track in the probe.

The anti-doping agency’s president, Witold Banka, emphasized investigations would continue into Russian manipulation.

“This is not the end of the road,” he said, pointing to a reanalysis of at least 57 samples from the Moscow laboratory.

Doping allegations have plagued the country since the revelation of large-scale state-sponsored doping aimed at improving its medal performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

In 2019, WADA banned Russia from all major international sporting events for four years for its attempts to undermine the investigation into state-backed doping, which Moscow denies.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
As part of the latest restrictions, female state workers have also been told to refrain from extravagant embroidery on the upper part of their dresses. (file photo)

The government in Turkmenistan has long been known for strictly controlling all aspects of its citizens' lives and restricting their freedom.

But Turkmen officials have taken it a step further recently by banning women who work for the state from coloring their hair or wearing nail polish. Applying false eyelashes or laminating one's eyebrows is also forbidden.

Violating any of the rules of the informal ban could result in the loss of one's job.

No official reason was given for the latest decision that was announced to employees at meetings held in schools and at government agencies, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ashgabat reported on April 24, citing several women who were in attendance.

While many are unhappy with the ban, no one dared to voice their displeasure with the new restrictions, the women told RFE/RL.

The Turkmen government -- which controls all media, most of the economy, and enforces a myriad of social rules on its citizens -- is considered among the most repressive in the world and doesn't tolerate public criticism or free speech.

A similar ban on women's beauty products was imposed on state workers in the Central Asian country of some 5.8 million people in April 2018. But those restrictions had gradually been eased, the women said.

Hairdressers and beauty-salon owners were also informed about the new rules, RFE/RL's correspondent reported.

It was clarified by state officials at the meetings that the nail-polish ban applies both to fingernails and toenails. But it's unclear if the women are allowed to get a regular manicure or pedicure without coloring their nails or if they would be allowed to have a transparent varnish applied.

The restrictions have not been announced or discussed by state media outlets.

Dress Code

The new rules come two months after a Turkmen province prohibited men from coloring their graying hair.

The Turkmen government had previously introduced a dress code for women working for the state that consists of long, traditional embroidered dresses with a hem at the ankle.

Headwear -- either a handkerchief or traditional hat -- is optional.

As part of the latest restrictions, the state workers have also been told to refrain from extravagant embroidery on the upper part of their dresses.

Instead they are told to stick to "a narrow, simple, and modest pattern."

The ban was first announced to employees in the Gokdepe district in Ahal Province, and the instructions were given in Ashgabat, the capital, soon afterwards, RFE/RL reported.

Ashgabat city authorities and the state-run Central Council of the Women's Union of Turkmenistan did not respond to RFE/RL requests for comment on the new regulations for women.

Turkmen police have in the past fined women who violated the dress code.

Men have also not been spared from the government's strict rules.

In early February, authorities in Lebap Province prohibited all men above the age of 40 from coloring their gray hair.

A combination photo of Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov in 2017 (left) and 2019.
A combination photo of Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov in 2017 (left) and 2019.

That ban on touching-up gray roots began two years ago and was linked to authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's new image.

The president -- who had always dyed his hair pitch black -- disappeared from public view for several weeks in the summer of 2018 and returned with a new salt-and-pepper look. It was the first time he had appeared with gray hair.

Men who work in the country's public sector also aren't allowed to wear their hair long or to grow a beard.

The Turkmen authorities' latest move comes as the rest of the world focuses on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Along with North Korea and Central Asian neighbor Tajikistan, Turkmenistan is one the few countries that has not reported a single coronavirus infection.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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