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USADA chief calls reduction of Russian Olympic ban a ‘tragedy’

Court of Arbitration for Sport reduces Russia's ban from Olympic events relating to doping scheme at 2014 Games to two years.

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USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has railed against a recent reduction of the Russian Olympic ban.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday reduced Russia’s four-year ban from global sports for running a sophisticated doping scheme to two years. WADA had initially imposed a four-year suspension after the discovery of the Russian regime during the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi.

The reduced sanction will prevent Russia from sending full teams to Tokyo 2021 and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Russian athletes and teams may still be permitted to compete in Tokyo and Beijing if they are not already serving individual suspensions or bans from competition, however.

Individual Russian athletes will be required to compete under a neutral banner, with the name “Russia” only permitted on uniforms if the words such as “Neutral Athlete” or “Neutral Team” are also displayed. Similar measures were imposed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

WADA’s initial request for a four-year ban came amid accusations of Russian state-sponsored tampering of laboratory testing equipment as well as tampering with a database of pertinent information in Moscow.

For USADA chief Tygart, the easing of the sanctions is a “charade.”

“They’ve been given chance after chance after chance,” Tygart told AFP. “Pyeongchang didn’t change their behavior, and we know that because they manipulated the database after that. So to be given yet another weak and loophole-riddled outcome is just a tragedy for the overall global effort.”

“It’s riddled with so many loopholes. IOC members are exempt from the ban. Athlete support personnel and government officials are exempt from it. There’s no consequence on those folks even if they were involved with directly perpetrating fraud in the past.

“The Russian colors can be there. It will be another charade like we saw in Pyeongchang where neutral athletes from Russia will have uniforms in Russian colors and the only thing that’s absent is the flag and the anthem in the event they win.”

Tygart’s reaction to the news contrasts that of WADA president Witold Bańka, who hailed the court’s decision.

“The (CAS) 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,” Bańka said.

CAS has also ruled that the Russian anti-doping agency must pay $1.27 million to compensate WADA for costs relating to investigations, as well as pay an additional fine of $100,000. The legal bill passed along to the organization amounts to $452,000.