Russia facing another Olympics ban after allegedly tampering with drug test data

Jack Baer
It only took a year for Russia to face another Olympic ban after its reinstatement. (AP Photo/James Ellingworth)
It only took a year for Russia to face another Olympic ban after its reinstatement. (AP Photo/James Ellingworth)

Remember the saga that consumed the 2018 Winter Olympics, when Russia was banned from the games for a doping program that was simply breathtaking in scale?

A sequel seems to be very much in the works.

The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday that its compliance and review committee has recommended Russia be declared non-compliant for tampering with anti-doping data provided to the agency, according to the Associated Press.

Ironically, this is the same drug test data that was required from Russia for WADA to end the ban that caused the country’s flag to be absent from the PyeongChang Games.

What did Russia allegedly do?

At issue this time with Russia are the allegations that the country made thousands of changes to drug test results before handing the data over to WADA. Backing up that assertion is, funnily enough, the head of Russia’s anti-doping agency, Yuri Ganus.

Ganus suggested in October that the changes were made to protect the reputations of former star athletes that now work in the Russian government and sports administration, and that he believes only a powerful Russian institution had the power to manipulate the data.

This is all basically a continuation of the 2014 Sochi saga, in which Russia used an elaborate, state-sponsored anti-doping program to make a mockery of the first Games hosted by the country since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The fallout from the scandal resulted in Russia’s ban from the 2018 Olympics — though 168 athletes were allowed to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — and the banning of its track team at the 2016 Olympics.

Russia was conditionally reinstated in 2018 after being banned for nearly three years, a decision that received global criticism. Months later, Russia refused to give key doping data to WADA, and now it appears this saga is nowhere close to over.

What happens next for Russia?

According to the AP, the WADA committee’s decision sets in motion a process that could end with Russia missing yet another Olympic Games.

Assuming the WADA executive committee agrees with the the decision to designate Russia as non-compliant, the case would likely result in a hearing in front of the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. Losing there would likely mean no Russian flag in Tokyo next year, and possibly beyond.

Given that its own anti-doping program leader is backing up the allegations, this might not end well for Russia.

None of this is particularly well-timed for the country, which was still in the process of reinstating its track team with World Athletics. That process has now been suspended, and World Athletics is reportedly considering the outright expulsion of the country from its membership.

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