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Russia To Miss Olympics, World Cup After Doping Ban Halved

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The entrance of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne (file photo)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld doping sanctions that will prevent Russian athletes from competing at major sporting events under the country's flag, but halved the period of the ban to two from four years.

The Lausanne-based court announced its ruling on December 17, saying the reduction of the ban should not be seen "as any validation" of Russia's conduct.

The ban will now run until December 16, 2022.

The ban prevents Russia from competing in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was delayed to next year, and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) imposed the four-year ban in December 2019 when it declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) noncompliant after it was accused of manipulating drug-testing data.

Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the ban at the time as a "politically motivated" ruling that "contradicted" the Olympic charter.

WADA concluded that laboratory data had been tampered with by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.

Russia was told to hand over data as a condition of its controversial reinstatement in 2018 following a three-year suspension over wide-ranging doping practices.

CAS said its panel “has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the noncompliance and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained."

"It has considered matters of proportionality and, in particular, the need to effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport," the court added.

WADA President Witold Banka said his agency was “pleased to have won this landmark case” but also disappointed the court had not endorsed all of its recommendations.

"These are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences,” Banka said in a statement.

The ban means Russia will not be allowed to use its flag and anthem at any major sporting events for the next two years.

Athletes will be able to compete under a neutral flag if they prove no connection to doping. They can wear a uniform bearing Russian colors, but it cannot contain the Russian flag or any national symbol. If the uniform displays the name “Russia” -- written in any language -- it cannot be more prominent than the words "neutral athlete," which must be written in English.

Russia is also prevented from hosting international events during the same period.

"This sends a clear message that institutionalized cheating and concerted efforts to subvert the global anti-doping system will not be tolerated," Banka said.

RUSADA said it was partially satisfied with the ruling.

Allowing athletes proven to have remained free of performance-enhancing drugs is a "victory of common sense," the agency said in a statement, adding that Russia remains ready to fulfil the conditions required to be reinstated by WADA.

More than 160 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called the decision to halve the ban on Russia "a catastrophic blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport, and the rule of law.”

"At this stage in this sordid Russian state-sponsored doping affair, now spanning close to a decade, there is no consolation in this weak, watered-down outcome,” Tygart said in a statement.

A lawyer for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory and a key whistleblower in the Russia affair, said the CAS decision showed the tribunal was "unwilling and unable to meaningfully deal with systematic and long-standing criminality by Russia."

Jim Walden said in a statement that the ruling was made despite "overwhelming proof" of corruption and doping fraud by Russia.

The United States has recently introduced legislation that gives them jurisdiction to charge anyone anywhere in connection with doping, mainly those behind the schemes and not athletes -- named the Rodchenkov Act.

Russia has been banned from competing as a country in athletics since 2015.

The World Athletics governing body is to decide in March whether to allow Russian athletes who can prove they are clean to compete as neutral athletes in international track and field competitions.

Russia is allowed to participate in next year's Euro 2020 tournament, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, because European soccer's body UEFA is not defined as a "major event organization" regarding rulings on anti-doping breaches.

With reporting by the BBC, Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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