Russia has been handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The authority voted unanimously for the ban, which means the Russian flag and national anthem will not be permitted at events such as the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Russian athletes who can prove they are drug free will be able to compete under a neutral banner.
WADA’s executive committee took the decision after finding that Moscow had tampered with laboratory data. The Wall Street Journal said the country’s “repeated brazen efforts to mislead authorities” have caught up with it.
Announcing the ban, WADA’s president Sir Craig Reedie said: “For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join 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.”
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said the move was part of “chronic” anti-Russian “hysteria”, adding: “It is obvious that significant doping problems still exist in Russia, I mean our sporting community.”
“But on the other hand the fact that all these decisions are repeated, often affecting athletes who have already been punished in one way or another, not to mention some other points… of course this makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.”
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The head of Russia’s Biathlon Federation, Vladimir Drachev, also protested against the ban, telling Russian state media that the decision was “extremely wrong and biased”.
However, some within the WADA felt the ban did not go far enough, calling for the ultimate sanction of a blanket ban for Russia and its athletes. “I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, the WADA vice-president.
“This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologise [for] all the pain athletes and sports fans have experienced.”
Sky News says Russia is expected to appeal the decision and has 21 days to do so.