Putin Gets Split Decision as Russia Doping Ban Is Cut by Court

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Russian President Vladimir Putin got sport’s top court to reduce his country’s four-year doping ban, a political win that still stops its teams from participating in the next Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s penalty was cut to two years from this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, home to the International Olympic Committee.

Thursday’s decision was seized on as progress by Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA. It said in a statement it was not fully satisfied with the judgment but vowed to fulfill all the terms in order to restore its WADA membership.

WADA’s failure to convince the arbitration body to punish clean Russian athletes was a “victory for common sense,” RUSADA said in a statement.

Still, the ban leaves the country’s athletes out of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, the following year’s winter games in Beijing and the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar.

Russia was banished from international sporting events last December, a decision that cast a shadow over Putin’s efforts to boost his country’s prestige through sporting victories. Individual athletes who comply with strict conditions will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag but not as representatives of Russia.

The four-year ban was a humiliation for Putin, who personally oversaw the spending billions of dollars to host the 2014 Sochi winter games and the 2018 soccer World Cup as part of his efforts to restore Russia’s Soviet-era image as a sporting superpower.

After placing first in the medals table at the Sochi Games, which cost at least $50 billion to stage, Russia has been stripped of 13 of its 33 medals as the scale of its doping program emerged.

An independent investigation commissioned by WADA found in 2016 that Russian sports officials oversaw a vast program to manipulate doping test results from 2011 to 2015, and that athletes’ positive urine samples were swapped out during the Sochi games.

WADA said the decision was a victory for sports justice.

“The panel has clearly upheld our findings that the Russian authorities brazenly and illegally manipulated the Moscow laboratory data in an effort to cover up an institutionalized doping scheme,” WADA President Witold Banka said in a statement.

WADA said it was disappointed that the arbitration court didn’t uphold all of its recommendations but that it still represents the “strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offenses.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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