‘A punishment cannot be collective’

Russia may appeal WADA’s decision to ban the country from future Olympics

The Kremlin will consider the possibility of appealing a decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to forbid Russia from participating in global sporting events. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ban is not aimed to defend the purity of international sport but based on political considerations.

WADA banned Russia from the world’s top sporting events for four years on Monday for tampering with doping tests, reports Reuters. Speaking at a news conference in Paris on the same day, President Vladimir Putin claimed that Moscow had grounds to appeal the decision, as the agency’s conclusions contained no complaints directed at Russia’s national Olympic committee.

“And if there are no complaints against it, then the country should compete under the national flag. That’s written in the Olympic Charter. That means that, in that aspect, the WADA decision violated the Olympic Charter. We have all grounds to appeal,” the Russian president said, adding that any punishment should be individual and linked to what had been done by a particular person. “A punishment cannot be collective and apply to people who have nothing to do with certain violations,” Putin added. He also assumed that “such a decision about collective punishment” could be based on “political considerations which have nothing to do with the interest of sport or the Olympic movement”.

WADA’s decision is based on conclusions that Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats, says Reuters. The ban, which is a serious blow to Russia’s sports pride, applies to major sporting events including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and 2022 FIFA World Cup. Russian athletes can still participate as a neutral team.

At the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, there was a team of 168 “Olympic Athletes from Russia”. However, according to Hew Haven Register, the International Olympic Committee was criticised for letting Russian athletes have uniforms in national colours, allowing Russian officials to attend and approving the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” name. Before, athletes from suspended countries were called “Independent Olympic Athletes”.

As for the soccer 2022 World Cup, FIFA would have to change its rules to allow Russia to participate as a neutral team. “I don’t know if they are going to qualify,” said Jonathan Taylor, the head of WADA’s compliance review committee, adding that if a mechanism was put in place, Russia could apply to participate on a neutral basis.

By Anna Litvina