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2 Feb, 2022 14:48

World anti-doping boss fires warning over Russian return

World Anti-Doping Agency head Witold Banka suggested Russia should not assume sanctions will be lifted at the end of 2022
World anti-doping boss fires warning over Russian return

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Witold Banka has warned Russia that it should not assume its sanctions will be lifted once a suspension has been completed at the end of the year. 

Russia was hit with a four-year ban by WADA in December 2019 after allegedly failing to fully comply with an investigation amid long-running claims of state-sponsored doping, which Russia has denied. 

The ban was later halved to two years on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but still mean Russia is barred from flying its flag and having its national anthem played at major sporting events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The ban covers the Winter Games in Beijing this month, where Russian athletes will again be competing under the the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) – just as they were in Japan last year. 

Based on current sanctions, this should be the last Olympics before the Russian ban ends on December 16, but WADA officials have said there should be no assumptions over the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) being declared compliant again, despite the efforts being made to that end. 

"I think it is too early to say I am happy and the chapter is closed. Let's wait, this is an ongoing process," WADA president Banka said to Reuters in Beijing.

"The rules are clear, RUSADA needs to follow the rules, the requirements, and standards. So far they are doing it, we are in close contact with them.

"They strictly follow our rules but as I said this is an ongoing process, this is not the end of this chapter," Banka stressed.

"At the end of the year we will need to say yes, RUSADA can be compliant. It is not the end of this process, it is too early to say definitely that they are compliant."

While Russia has acknowledged some shortcomings in implementing its anti-doping rules, it has denied running a state-sponsored doping program.

"RUSADA needs to follow the rules," Banka pointed out.

"Now it is an ongoing process and too early to say there will be concrete results but the rules are very strict.

"If RUSADA wants to be compliant it has to follow the rules from the CAS decision and of course our standards. We are in touch with RUSADA and let's wait for the end of the year," he concluded.

As confirmed by International Testing Agency Director General Benjamin Cohen on Wednesday, Russia received the most testing recommendations ahead of Beijing 2022 followed by fellow winter sports giants Germany, the United States, Canada, and Norway. 

Russia was also the most tested, with the ITA stating that a number of factors determine pre-Games doping risk assessments including medal prospects, doping history, and the size of the team.

The Winter Games officially kick off on Friday, and Russia will field 212 athletes under the ROC banner.