Rus­sia faces next wave of pun­ish­ment in end­less dop­ing saga

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By GRA­HAM DUN­BAR AP Sports Writer MON­DAY, DE­CEM­BER 9, 2019

GENEVA >> The never-end­ing Rus­sia dop­ing saga hits an­other dra­matic peak Mon­day when its Tokyo Olympics sta­tus and prospects for host­ing in­ter­na­tional sports events are on the line.

World Anti-Dop­ing Agency lead­ers have been urged by ex­pert ad­vis­ers to take a hard line on Rus­sian state tam­per­ing with a Moscow lab­o­ra­tory data­base that was meant to bring the scan­dal to­ward clo­sure.

In­stead, the lat­est round of bro­ken prom­ises risks taint­ing Rus­sia in world sports for at least four more years.

The na­tional flag and an­them faces be­ing banned from ma­jor events, in­clud­ing the 2020 Sum­mer Games in Tokyo and 2022 Win­ter Games in Bei­jing. Some host­ing rights could be stripped from Rus­sia by sports gov­ern­ing bod­ies bound by WADA rules to re­spect Mon­day’s rul­ing.

Still, a de­ci­sion due to be an­nounced at 1.30 p.m. (12:30 GMT) in the Olympic city of Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, will likely not be the end. Ap­peals and more le­gal ac­tion are ex­pected ahead of the July 24 open­ing cer­e­mony in Tokyo and be­yond.

THE DOP­ING SCAN­DAL

Rus­sian dop­ing and the le­gal fall­out have been a global news fix­ture for five years and count­ing.

Sys­tem­atic state-backed cheat­ing kicked into gear in 2011 and was not ex­posed un­til af­ter it cor­rupted the 2014 Win­ter Games hosted by Rus­sia in Sochi.

Mount­ing ev­i­dence of dop­ing, ex­tor­tion schemes and cover-ups was re­vealed since De­cem­ber 2014 by Ger­man tele­vi­sion pro­grams, World Anti-Dop­ing Agency in­ves­ti­ga­tions and an Os­car-win­ning doc­u­men­tary about the whistle­blow­ing lab direc­tor who fled into U.S. wit­ness pro­tec­tion.

It pro­voked a slew of Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) cases, hack­ing schemes to re­tal­i­ate against western sports of­fi­cials and ath­letes, and a U.S. fed­eral in­dict­ment of Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers.

Rus­sian ath­letes were stripped of Olympic medals, oth­ers were barred from com­pet­ing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Sum­mer Games or 2018 Pyeongchan­g Win­ter Games. In South Korea, the Rus­sian flag, an­them and na­tional Olympic body were banned.

Rus­sia took a big step to­ward re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in Septem­ber 2018 when WADA — de­fy­ing pleas from many ath­letes and anti-dop­ing of­fi­cials — re­stored the work­ing sta­tus of its an­tidop­ing agency, RUSADA.

CLO­SURE OP­TION

Rus­sia’s key chal­lenge from WADA was hand­ing over data and sam­ples from the Moscow lab long sealed by state au­thor­i­ties.

WADA got the ev­i­dence in Jan­uary which could have cleared some ath­letes of sus­pi­cion and helped sports bod­ies pros­e­cute oth­ers for dop­ing vi­o­la­tions.

How­ever, data was deleted and al­tered. Fake ev­i­dence was planted — in­tended to clear a state wit­ness and im­pli­cate whis­tle blow­ers — ac­cord­ing to WADA in­ves­ti­ga­tors. They sifted though 23 mil­lion megabytes com­par­ing the data­base with their own ver­sion pro­vided by a whis­tle blower in 2017.

Given a chance to co­op­er­ate, Rus­sia com­mit­ted more state-backed tam­per­ing.

PUN­ISH­MENT OP­TIONS

WADA’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee will con­sider a slate of pun­ish­ments from by its Com­pli­ance Re­view Com­mit­tee, start­ing with again declar­ing RUSADA non­com­pli­ant.

WADA is ex­pected to im­pose a “Four-Year Pe­riod” where Rus­sian teams and ath­letes could com­pete at ma­jor events only if they are not linked to pos­i­tive dop­ing tests or the data cor­rup­tion.

That would deny Rus­sia its flag and an­them at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Bei­jing Win­ter Games — just as they were ab­sent from the 2018 Pyeongchan­g Win­ter Games, and the past two track and field world cham­pi­onships.

WADA could also im­pose a four-year ban on Rus­sia host­ing, bid­ding for, or be­ing awarded ma­jor events, in­clud­ing the 2032 Sum­mer Games. Sports bod­ies would then be asked to move events al­ready awarded.

There is a loop­hole: Rus­sia would retain events where “it is legally or practicall­y im­pos­si­ble” to move them.

Rus­sian gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Olympic of­fi­cials would be banned from at­tend­ing ma­jor events or com­mit­tee seats of sports or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Any rec­om­mended sanc­tion re­jected by the WADA lead­er­ship will go back to the com­pli­ance panel for re­view.

WHO WILL DE­CIDE?

The WADA ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee in­cludes five IOC-ap­proved del­e­gates from Olympic cir­cles and five rep­re­sen­ta­tives of gov­ern­ments world­wide.

It is chaired by long-time IOC mem­ber Craig Reedie of Scot­land, whose sec­ond term as pres­i­dent ex­pires this month. His suc­ces­sor, Poland’s sports min­is­ter Wi­told Ba ka, is a gov­ern­ment del­e­gate.

The out­go­ing vice pres­i­dent, Nor­we­gian law­maker Linda Hof­s­tad Hel­le­land, con­sis­tently sides with athlete groups want­ing WADA to be tougher with Rus­sia.

Olympic del­e­gates suc­cess­fully pushed for RUSADA

to be re­in­stated last year.

WADA lead­ers did not have power to force a blan­ket ban on Rus­sia from the Rio Olympics, which IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach re­sisted. They have greater pow­ers now.

THE OLYMPIC VIEW

The IOC’s pa­tience seems to be wear­ing out with Rus­sian state au­thor­i­ties, though it still wants to pro­tect Rus­sian ath­letes and sports of­fi­cials not di­rectly im­pli­cated.

Two weeks ago, the IOC con­demned “fla­grant ma­nip­u­la­tion” of Moscow lab data that was “an in­sult to the sport­ing move­ment world­wide.”

“The IOC stresses that the guilty should be pun­ished in the tough­est way pos­si­ble,” it said — but who ex­actly in the state ap­pa­ra­tus is seen as hav­ing “sole re­spon­si­bil­ity”?

RUS­SIAN VIEWS

For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov de­cried the case as the lat­est western at­tempt to put Rus­sia on the de­fen­sive.

How­ever, RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus has said of the pro­posed sanc­tions: “They’re to be ex­pected and they’re jus­ti­fied.”

Rus­sian Sports Min­is­ter Pavel Kolobkov said he wants an ap­peal filed at CAS, but that is a de­ci­sion for RUSADA.

RUSADA will have 21 days from Mon­day to ac­cept or ap­peal the WADA decisions. If RUSADA ac­cepts the pun­ish­ments, other in­ter­ested par­ties can step in with an ap­peal to CAS.

Any CAS ver­dict in the months ahead is bind­ing on all sig­na­to­ries to the World Anti-Dop­ing Code.

Lawyers who have rep­re­sented Rus­sians at CAS said WADA is try­ing to “re­vive an al­ready failed strat­egy” by tar­get­ing ath­letes.

SPORTS EVENTS IN RUS­SIA

In the next four years, Rus­sia helps host two of the big­gest events in in­ter­na­tional soc­cer, the big­gest an­nual con­ven­tion of Olympic stake­hold­ers, and some world cham­pi­onships. Euro­pean soc­cer body UEFA will go to St. Peters­burg for four games at the 2020 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship and the 2021 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. Though world soc­cer body FIFA is signed up to WADA, UEFA is not.

If the an­nual SportAc­cord con­fer­ence is not well known to fans, it is a sig­nif­i­cant gath­er­ing of Olympic sports bod­ies, po­ten­tial host cities, and ex­perts in busi­ness, mar­ket­ing and law.

On Nov. 30, the Lau­sanne-based or­ga­niz­ers , which in­clude a Krem­lin­con­nected busi­ness­man, seemed to defy the pend­ing WADA process by an­nounc­ing Eka­ter­in­burg as their 2021 host.

World cham­pi­onships head­ing to Rus­sia in­clude: luge (2020, Sochi); beach soc­cer (2021, Moscow); wrestling (2022, Kras­no­yarsk); ice hockey (2023, St. Peters­burg), and also the Univer­sity Sum­mer Games (2023, Eka­ter­in­burg).

The Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and SportAc­cord seem the most pres­ti­gious and eas­i­est to re­lo­cate — yet also per­haps the eas­i­est for Rus­sia to retain.

FU­TURE AP­PEALS

WADA sanc­tions can by ap­pealed by RUSADA to Lau­sanne-based CAS.

Ap­peals typ­i­cally take sev­eral months to pre­pare but can be fast-tracked be­fore the July 24-Aug. 9 Tokyo Olympics.

Some Rus­sian ath­letes won CAS ap­peals against the IOC days be­fore the Pyeongchan­g Win­ter Games to over­turn their Olympic life bans and Sochi dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

An­other Olympic life ban in De­cem­ber 2017 for Vi­taly Mutko — Rus­sia’s sports min­is­ter be­fore and af­ter the Sochi Olympics, now a deputy prime min­is­ter — was later over­turned at CAS. The court said gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were not in the IOC’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

Be­yond CAS, ap­peals can be made on lim­ited grounds to Switzer­land’s supreme court which rarely suc­ceed.

PAVEL GOLOVKIN - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Olympic Rings and a model of Misha the Bear Cub, the mas­cot of the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, left, are seen in the yard of Rus­sian Olympic Com­mit­tee build­ing in Moscow, Rus­sia, Thurs­day, Nov. 28, 2019. The WADA com­mit­tee has pro­posed a pack­age of sanc­tions in­clud­ing a four-year ban on host­ing ma­jor events in Rus­sia and a sim­i­lar four-year sanc­tion on Rus­sians com­pet­ing in top events like the Olympics, though they could en­ter as neu­trals.

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