Russian Sporting Ban That’s Really A Let Off

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Written By Farid Shojaei

The World Anti-Doping Agency is seemingly a watchdog with a fearsome bark but no real teeth after the small print of the ban on Russian athletes competing on the global stage is digested.

Russia was warned that a complete ban on hosting or taking part in international competition was likely – but the watered down version delivered this week is riddled with ifs, buts and loopholes.

To recap, Russia was caught diddling doping tests across a range of major sports and instead of admitting the truth, tried to dispose of the evidence.

WADA duly investigated and decided that Russia cannot participate in international sporting events for four years.

That means no Russian team, flag or anthem be in sight or hearing at the Olympics, Paralympics or World Championships.

Benefit of doubt for cheating

But the ban isn’t really that strict.

Any Russian athlete who can demonstrate they are clean of drug enhanced performances can take part in international competition as neutrals, however how neutrals will compete in team sports is unclear.

A similar ban applied at the South Korea Winter Olympics. Then, 168 Russians took part as neutrals and took home 17 medals.

And some events are not covered –  like soccer’s Euro 2020, qualifying matches for the World Cup and the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Russia, of course, denies culpability and intends to appeal.

Once again Russia gains the benefit of the doubt for cheating.

Not fair on unenhanced athletes

WADA has recently won the power to impose the ban, but cannot consider how the Moscow anti-doping lab handled cases, only how the data was manipulated after the power came into force.

The judges want to be seen to be fair to Russia and to young Russian athletes who were not implicated in the doping scandal and were not on the international scene when the offences took place.

But they seem to forget showing the same fairness to athletes who were cheated out of their chances to take home medals or achieve records with unenhanced performances.

Some have waited more than a decade for the cheats to be exposed and their medals awarded to genuine competitors.