Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

(From L) World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President-Elect Witold Banka, WADA President Craig Reedie and WADA Director General Olivier Niggli attend a press conference on December 9, 2019 in Lausanne following a meeting of the WADA executive committee which banned Russia from global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after accusing Moscow of falsifying data from an anti-doping laboratory. (AFP)
Updated 09 December 2019

Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

  • WADA's executive committee handed Russia the four-year suspension
  • Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year

LAUSANNE: The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data.
WADA's executive committee, meeting in Lausanne, handed Russia the four-year suspension after accusing Moscow of falsifying laboratory doping data handed over to investigators earlier this year.
Not only will Russia be ruled out of the next Olympic cycle, but Russian government officials will be barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host, or even bid, for tournaments.
"WADA's executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years," WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said.
Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics but only if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
It will be up to FIFA to stipulate how a team of Russian players can take part in the qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.
Euro 2020, in which the Russian city of Saint Petersburg will host four matches, is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a "major event" for anti-doping purposes.
"They are going to have prove they had nothing to do with the non-compliance, (that) they were not involved in the doping schemes as described by the McLaren report, or they did not have their samples affected by the manipulation," Fitzgerald said.
The independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016, revealed the significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015.
It led to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) being suspended for nearly three years previously over revelations of a vast state-supported doping programme.
Full disclosure of data from the Moscow laboratory was a key condition of Russia's controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.
RUSADA chief Yury Ganus told AFP Monday that his country had "no chance" of winning an appeal against the ban, dubbing it tragic for clean athletes.
"There is no chance of winning this case in court," Ganus said, with RUSADA's supervisory board set to meet on December 19 to take a decision on whether to appeal the ban.
"This is a tragedy," he added. "Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited."
The WADA decision was widely predicted, with the body's president, Craig Reedie, having made a presentation Saturday to the Olympic Summit, participants of which "strongly condemned those responsible for the manipulation of the data from the Moscow laboratory".
"It was agreed that this was an attack on sport and that these actions should lead to the toughest sanctions against those responsible," the IOC said, asking that the Russian authorities deliver the "fully authenticated raw data".
Positive doping tests contained in data leaked by a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the laboratory data supplied in January 2019, which prompted a new inquiry.
Former WADA president Dick Pound, who chaired the commission that in 2015 made damning accusations of mass doping in Russian athletics, said Moscow had this time gone "too far".
"The IOC is a little bit tired about what Russia has been doing and so I see the IOC probably focusing more on athletes who are newer," Pound told AFP.
Pound acknowledged the influential role of Russia -- which in recent years hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as well as the football World Cup in 2018 -- "on many levels" in the sporting world.
"On the field of play, it is a big, important country. With China and the United States, it's among the sporting giants, so that's influential," he said.
"It's (also) influential because Russia hosts and is willing to host many competitions for international federations, especially those who don't have much money of their own, so they have a considerable influence among the international federations.
"And they've been quite strategic about making sure that they get Russians into positions on international federations. So they have an impact from inside as well as from outside."


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.