A Swiss court upheld doping sanctions that will prevent Russian athletes from competing at major international events under the country’s flag, but halved the period of the ban to two years from four.
The ruling on Thursday will leave Russian athletes without their flag and national anthem at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and at the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had originally banned Russia from the world’s top sporting events for four years in December 2019, but the sanction could not be implemented until the end of the appeal process.
The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said the sanctions, which also bar Russia from hosting or bidding for top sporting events, would come into force on Thursday and end on December 16, 2022.
Russia’s doping woes have snowballed since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping among the country’s track and field athletes.
Investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt, one the journalists who broke systemic doping scandal in Russia, told Al Jazeera: “It was still clear Russia has cheated, manipulated doping systems, sport systems for a lot of years at least since 2012 or maybe earlier.”
Russians will also not be able to be appointed to or sit on committees or serve as board members at organisations that must abide by the WADA code.
WADA had accused Russia of planting fake evidence and of deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
Russian authorities say the inconsistencies in the data were purely technical and not the result of tampering.
Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA said it was unhappy with the decision.
“It seems that not all the arguments presented by our lawyers were heard,” Mikhail Bukhanov, the agency’s acting head, said in a statement.
Russia’s Olympic Committee on Thursday called the ruling by CAS “unacceptable”.
But the committee’s president Stanislav Pozdnyakov also expressed satisfaction that Russian athletes would be able to compete under a neutral flag and would not be “collectively” banned.
WADA President Witold Banka said the agency was disappointed the court had not endorsed all of its recommendations but said it was still “pleased to have won this landmark case” and said the panel had upheld findings that “the Russian authorities brazenly and illegally manipulated the Moscow laboratory data, and covered up and institutionalised the doping scam”.
“These are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences and the award clearly endorses the resolute, process-driven approach taken by WADA in dealing effectively with this case,” he said.
Many Russian athletes were sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country was deprived of its flag at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Games in southern Russia.