The World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) executive committee has dealt a serious blow to Russia's sporting community, banning the country's athletes and officials from the Olympics and world championships in a range of sports for four years for drugs violations.
The committee made the move "unanimously" on December 9 after WADA concluded that Moscow had tampered with laboratory data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The ban applies to Russian athletes, government officials and their representatives, and means the Russian flag may not fly at any major event staged during the four-year period.
The sanctions effectively strip the accreditation of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which has 21 days to officially appeal the ruling with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Russian officials decried the move and said it should be appealed.
"For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA's reinstatement conditions...demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today," WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said in a statement.
"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin 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," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the ban "political motivated" that "contradicted" the Olympic Charter while addressing a news conference in Paris on December 9. He said Moscow would analyze WADA's decision and that Russia had grounds to appeal the ruling.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev the same day admitted there were "considerable problems" with doping in Russia, but he complained that the ban applies to "athletes who have already been punished."
Such a punishment is the result of "anti-Russian hysteria," he said.
Pyotr Tolstoi, the deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, condemned the ban as “a means of pushing Russian competitors out of international sports."
Aleksandr Ivlev, head of RUSADA's supervisory board, said the body would meet in the next 10 days to decide on further steps that may be taken.
However, RUSADA chief Yury Ganus said there is “no chance” that Russia can win the appeal.
"This is a tragedy," he said. "Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited."
Ganus also called on Russia to conduct a “thorough investigation” and provide an “authentic” copy of Moscow anti-doping laboratory data.
Calling the sanctions “inadequate, illogical, and excessive," the president of Russia's Olympic Committee (ROC), Stanislav Pozdnyakov, said the ROC would do everything it could to enable Russian athletes to compete under the country's flag at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
A spokesperson for the organizing committee said it would welcome all athletes as long as they were clean and work with other organizations to fully implement anti-doping measures.
It is expected that WADA's official notice will be sent to RUSADA, alleging noncompliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
WADA's decision was based on the recommendations of the agency's Compliance Review Committee (CRC), which had alleged that this data was manipulated before being handed over to investigators, as required under conditions for reinstating RUSADA's compliance with the code in September 2018.
WADA said that in instances where the right to host a major event during the four-year period has already been awarded to Russia, the governing body "must withdraw that right and reassign the event to another country, unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so."
"In addition, Russia may not bid for the right to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, irrespective of whether the bidding takes place during or after the four-year period," WADA said.
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 September 2018, WADA lifted the suspension of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA that had been in place for three years on condition that Russia hand over doping data and samples from 2012 to 2015.
But the CRC on November 25 accused Russia of falsifying some of the data provided by a Moscow laboratory in January, and proposed imposing a four-year ban on RUSADA and excluding the country from major sporting competitions.
Russian athletes may compete at the Olympics as neutrals under the Olympic flag if they are not linked to positive doping tests or the data corruption.
As a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, the International Olympic Committee is bound to honor the decision.