Following a court ruling on December 17th, Russia will not be allowed to use its name, flag, or national anthem at the next two Olympic games— and will not be able to participate in any world championships for the next two years, according to the Associated Press News.
This ruling, by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, cut the four-year ban that was originally proposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in half. The ban was proposed after Russia was accused of state-ordered tampering of a testing-laboratory database in Moscow, in an effort to cover up an institutionalized doping scheme.
However, even with the ban, Russian athletes and teams will still be permitted to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, as well as numerous other world cups and world championships— as long as they were not involved in the doping scheme. This is because culpability in the scandal has now shifted away from Russian athletes, according to ESPN. During part of last month’s hearing, 43 Russian athletes and their lawyers argued before the court that they should not be punished for the misconduct by the state.
Russian athletes and teams can still use the national colors of red, white, and blue in their uniforms and can even display the word “Russia”— as long as the phrase “neutral athlete” is prominently displayed as well.
As of right now, it is unclear why the court decided to impose a lighter penalty than the original four-year ban that was proposed, but the decision has already spawned its fair share of criticism all around the globe. Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, expressed his disappointment with the weaker restrictions in a statement released on December 17th. “At this stage in the sordid Russian state-sponsored doping affair, now spanning close to a decade, there is no consolation in this weak, watered-down outcome.”
Along with the ban, RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, has been ordered to pay the World Anti Doping Agency $1.27 million in costs related to the investigation, according to NPR.
Even thought the decision is far weaker than the initial consequences that were proposed, the court order marks the most severe penalties imposed on Russia since allegations about the doping scheme began to emerge back in 2014, after the Sochi Olympics. Following the court’s decision, the judges stated that their choice to impose lighter punishments in the case should not be misread as validating either the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities, accord to the Associated Press News.
While the ruling would ban Russia from hosting any world championship events in the next two years, events can still be reprieved. And Russian government officials, including Vladimir Putin himself, will still be permitted to attend major sporting events— but only if they are invited by the host nation’s head of state.