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Sports lawyer hopes WADA makes fair decision in ‘political fight’ over doping in Russian sports

Sports lawyer hopes WADA makes fair decision in ‘political fight’ over doping in Russian sports
The World Anti-Doping Agency should listen to both sides before punishing Russian athletes for something they have no control over, a prominent Swiss sports lawyer told RT, adding that the scandal seems politically motivated.

WADA has accused the Russian anti-doping agency of submitting inconsistent raw data to the world body, and threatened to ban Russia from hosting major sporting events for the next four years, and force its athletes to compete under a neutral flag. This would impact Russia’s participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as the 2023 hosting of the ice hockey world championship.

Dr. Lucien W. Valloni, a Swiss-based international sports lawyer, told RT that he hoped WADA would carefully weigh all the facts of the case and hear everyone out before making a decision. 

“We can only hope that this time the report is more balanced,” he told RT on Friday. “But the last time it was not like that. It was a procedure where even witnesses from Russia were not heard.” 

Valloni speculated that WADA might force Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag, but stop short of banning the country from hosting international sporting competitions. By contrast, the UK anti-doping agency has called for a total and indefinite ban on Russian sports, along the lines of the 2016 Paralympics.

Such collective punishment “would not be acceptable” again, Valloni told RT.

What I fear is that innocent athletes will have to live with a very bad decision in the end.

The IOC allowed Russia to compete at the 2016 Olympics, but the paralympics association issued a blanket ban on Russian competitors, which Valloni called “absolutely a catastrophe.”

“This was against human rights, to [impose a] collective punishment without proving that a single athlete had made a mistake,” he said.

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WADA’s crusade against Russian athletes came after the allegations of a state-sponsored doping program by “whistleblower” Sergey Rodchenkov, a former employee of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) who fled to the US after facing accusations of drug trafficking and abuse of power at home.

The newest WADA sanctions are related to the raw records that RUSADA transmitted, as required, to the world body. RUSADA says that the records had been tampered with by Rodchenkov and two of his associates, from computer addresses in the US, and has presented evidence of this to WADA.

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“I think this is still politically motivated,” Valloni told RT, adding that WADA’s apparent absence of interest in documented doping scandals in other countries seemed strange to him. “It’s not believable that in other countries doping is not happening.”

While the Russian government submitted to WADA’s judgment in 2016 and admitted the existence of irregularities at RUSADA, it has denied running a state-sponsored doping program. 

Moscow is pushing back on the new allegations, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying last month that they seem to be part of a widespread campaign by certain Western countries to blame Russia for everything.

WADA’s decision is due on December 9.

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