A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel has suggested that Russia be banned for four years from competing in international events, including next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The move stems from new revelations in a doping programme that Russia has been accused of.

A look at what the alleged programme is about:

How did these allegations unfold?

Over the last five years, whistleblowers and investigators have accused Russia of running a doping programme so sophisticated that it forced international federations to stop its athletes from competing in major events. In September 2018, after multiple investigations, WADA lifted the sanctions on the condition that Russia handover athlete data to doping regulators from its Moscow laboratory, which would help identify hundreds of athletes who may have cheated across various sports.

Now, Russia has been accused of manipulating that database. This is what led to the WADA panel suggesting the four-year ban.

What was Russia originally accused of?

In 2014, 800m runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband Vitaly — a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, RUSADA — appeared in a German documentary and lifted the lid on what was later described as one of the most “sophisticated doping programmes” in sports history.

What happened then?

Immediately after the allegations surfaced, the accreditation of Russia’s anti-doping lab was suspended in 2015. After the preliminary investigations, the IOC removed 111 athletes, including the entire track and field team, from Russia’s 389-member contingent for the Rio Olympics. Following a deeper inquiry, the IOC suggested a complete ban on Russia’s participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Ultimately, 168 athletes participated through special dispensations from the international federations. But the Russian Olympic Committee was barred from attending the event and the country’s flag was not officially displayed at any of the venues. Russian athletes, too, were forced to wear neutral uniforms with “Olympic Athlete from Russia” printed on them.

Why did WADA lift the sanctions later?

That was an unexpected decision in September 2018, taken despite an outcry from athletes and anti-doping officials from the world over after negotiations between Russian officials and leaders of international sports organisations.

Will there be a new punishment imposed on Russian athletes?

The WADA panel on Monday recommended that Russia face a four-year ban from global sports, including the Tokyo Olympics. The proposed sanctions include:

* Forcing Russian athletes to compete at a second straight Olympics in neutral uniforms. If they win medals, the country’s flag won’t be raised and national anthem won’t be played.

* Russian athletes be allowed to compete in major events only if they demonstrate that they are clean and meet a number of other strict conditions.

* Preventing Russia from bidding for new championships, and moving the tournaments the country was set to host during this period to other nations.

* Barring Russian government officials and representatives from attending major events or from serving on the board of any organisation that has signed the global anti-doping code.

Source: The Indian Express

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