Officials from the Russian Olympic Committee or any of its sport governing bodies are also barred from attending the Olympics or any other major international competitions for the next four years, which includes government officials such as President Vladimir Putin.
The country’s years-long state-sponsored doping scandal led to it being banned from the 2018 Games, but Russia and its anti-doping agency were conditionally reinstated last year, prompting criticism that WADA was too soft in its punishment.
As part of that reinstatement, Russia was required to turn over laboratory data, but WADA discovered that data was manipulated, which prompted new sanctions for “an extremely serious case of noncompliance.”
But just as Moscow has repeatedly denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, claiming allegations were part of an anti-Russian narrative, the official reaction since the sports scandal first surfaced in 2015 has been to complain that this too was political.
“It’s obvious in this case that there are still significant doping problems on the Russian side — I mean our sports community. This can’t be denied,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a conference Monday with deputy prime ministers in Moscow.
“But on the other side,” Medvedev continued, “the fact that all these decisions are recurring and have often been applied to athletes who have already been punished one way or another, not to mention some other aspects — this certainly makes one think that this is just a continuation of that anti-Russian hysteria that has become chronic.”
His comments echoed those from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was asked about the possibility of a ban two weeks ago.
“There are those who want to put Russia in a defensive position accused of pretty much everything in every sphere of international life — conflicts, economics, energy, gas pipelines, arms sales,” Lavrov said at the time.
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie appeared to be aware of this rhetoric when he issued his statement Monday.
“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 said.
There will now be a cloud over Russian participation for two more Olympic Games, a fall from grace for what was once a proud and dominant sports program. In the past 12 Olympics, Russia’s total medal haul of 548, including 196 gold medals, trailed only the United States’.
Russia’s track and field athletes were barred from the Rio Games in 2016, and those competing in other sports were booed and mocked. Perhaps most memorably, swimmer Yulia Efimova was on the receiving end of a finger wag from American Lilly King, who was critical of Efimova’s reinstatement after she had tested positive for a banned steroid hormone and subsequently served a 16-month suspension. Russia still left Rio de Janeiro with 56 medals, the fourth-most of any nation.
After winning 29 medals in its 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, tying for the most of any country, Russia’s athletes took only 17 in the 2018 games in PyeongChang, with only two golds.
“There are more politics in it than doping,” said popular pro-Kremlin commentator Dmitry Kiselyov on his Sunday night news program.
He also suggested, without evidence, that whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, could’ve been the one responsible for the discrepancies between data submitted earlier this year by Moscow’s lab and the information originally shared by Rodchenkov in 2017.
WADA investigators said that part of the data manipulation by Russian officials was planting “fabricated evidence” in an attempt to implicate Rodchenkov in a purported scheme that sought to extort money from athletes.
“The database used for reference is the one that Rodchenkov stole when he fled abroad,” Vasily Titov, who heads Russia’s Gymnastics Federation, told the state-controlled newspaper Izvestia. “His password remained valid for quite a while, so he had the opportunity to access the database. We were accused of meddling with the data. But who can guarantee that Rodchenkov did not do it?”
Russia intends to appeal WADA’s ruling with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, but not everyone in Russia pushed back on WADA’s decision Monday. Yuri Ganus, chief of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and a rare critical voice inside Russia, called for a change in the decision-making figures in the Russian sports world, telling reporters in Moscow that “they are applying unacceptable, old-school approaches.”
Mariya Lasitskene, a three-time World Champion in high jump, wrote on Instagram that she was “totally not surprised about this outcome” and planned to compete under a neutral flag.
“The only thing that confuses us is that the athletes are alone in their struggle, and the leaders of our sport all this time have been protecting us only in words,” Lasitskene said.
In solidarity with the Russian athletes who will compete under a white, neutral flag at future international competitions, the popular sports.ru website announced that it would alter its logo for 24 hours to feature white dots rather than its usual multicolored ones. An editorial on that site two weeks ago said that Russia’s “manipulations with the [data] base are in fact acknowledgment. This is a proof of the state system of doping.”