Russia has been banned from using its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics or at any world championships for the next two years.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling also blocked Russia from bidding to host major sporting events for two years.
“The whole thing is disgusting,” said four-time world curling champion skip Glenn Howard. “I think they finally got what they deserved. What’s been going on for years now is just unbelievable.”
Individual Russian athletes and teams will still be allowed to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, as well as world championships including soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar, if they are not implicated in doping or covering up positive tests.
The punishments were halved from the four-year ban the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had initially proposed.
One small win for Russia is the proposed team name at major events. The name “Russia” can be retained on uniforms if the words “Neutral Athlete” or “Neutral Team” have equal prominence, the court said.
Still, the court’s three judges imposed the most severe penalties on Russia since allegations of state-backed doping and cover-ups emerged after the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“They’re clearly hiding something and it’s been going on for a long time,” said Howard. “I’m starting to think the WCF (World Curling Federation) shouldn’t allow them to curl until they get their act together.
“If the Russians aren’t learning their lesson, WCF should bring the hammer down.”
Following WADA’s release of the McLaren Report in December 2017, Russia was banned from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games although athletes, including curlers, were permitted to compete under a neutral Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) moniker.
In a remarkable development at PyeongChang, the OAR mixed doubles curling team was stripped of the bronze medal and male athlete Alexander Krushelnitsky was banned for four years after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Following the McLaren Report, The Curling News examined thousands of the report’s pages seeking mention of curling athletes … and mentions were found.
The Curling News’ research found that one Russian women’s team member, one Russian Mixed Doubles team member (female) and two Russian wheelchair curling athletes (one male, one female) from Russia’s 2014 Olympic program were involved – along with roughly 1,000 other athletes and sport/government figures – in an incredibly elaborate scheme to cheat the Olympic sport world at an unprecedented level.
The athletes were not named in the report, but the names and evidence were reportedly given to each sport’s international federation for further investigation and possible action.
Today’s appeal case centred on accusations that Russian state authorities tampered with a database from the Moscow testing laboratory before handing it over to WADA investigators last year. The database contained likely evidence to prosecute long-standing doping violations.
The CAS process was formally between WADA and the Russian anti-doping agency. The Russian agency, known as RUSADA, was ruled non-compliant last year — a decision upheld Thursday by the three judges.
RUSADA was also ordered to pay U.S. $1.27 million to WADA.
When a four-day hearing was held in Lausanne last month, Russian athletes and their lawyers took part as third parties arguing they should not be punished for misconduct by state officials not working in sports.
Giving WADA the lab database by a December 2018 deadline was a key condition for RUSADA being reinstated three months earlier when a previous expulsion from the anti-doping community was lifted.
WADA investigators in Moscow were initially turned away from accessing the lab and returned to their home office empty-handed. Weeks later, the investigators were re-invited to Moscow and the data and samples were provided. However, WADA investigators discovered evidence that doping tests and emails had been deleted or changed, and whistleblowers were implicated.
The ruling does allow Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, to attend major sporting events only if they are invited by the host nation’s head of state. Formal invitations usually given by the International Olympic Committee and other sport officials will not be issued.
Although Russia would be stripped of hosting world championships in the next two years, events can be reprieved. Governing bodies have been advised to find a new host “unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so.”
Russia was scheduled to host the World Curling Federation’s annual Congress and Annual General Meeting this past fall, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a virtual Congress was held. Russia is presently scheduled to host the WCF’s 2021 World Curling Congress at St. Petersburg next September.
WADA president Witold Banka said the ban will send a clear message that “institutionalized cheating” will not be tolerated, although he did admit to the organization’s disappointment that the CAS panel did not endorse every recommendation.
“WADA is pleased to have won this landmark case. We left no stone unturned in investigating this very complex matter and in presenting our case before CAS,” Banka said in a statement.
"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. In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case, in accordance with due process. In that regard, this ruling is an important moment for clean sport and athletes all over the world.
“We are, however, disappointed that the CAS panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested. We believe they were proportionate and reasonable, but ultimately WADA is not the judge but the prosecutor and we must respect the decision of the Panel.
“These are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences and the award clearly endorses the resolute, process-driven approach taken by WADA in dealing effectively with this case.
"This sends a clear message that institutionalized cheating and concerted efforts to subvert the global anti-doping system will not be tolerated ... Russian authorities were afforded every opportunity to get their house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of their athletes and the integrity of sport, but they chose instead to continue on their path of deception and denial.”