Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country has “reason to appeal” the decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, to ban Russian athletes from major international sport events for the next four years.
Although Russia faces sporting exile after being accused of tampering with laboratory data in a major scandal, athletes who can prove they are untainted by doping will still be able to compete as “neutrals”－under the Olympic flag－at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. WADA also confirmed that the Russian national team cannot take part in soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar under the Russian flag and can only participate as neutrals.
WADA President Craig Reedie said it was a “robust response” to Russia’s deception, but WADA vice-president Linda Helleland said the sanction was “not enough”.
Russia has three weeks to respond to the proposed sanctions, and Putin has now indicated an appeal will be lodged.
Putin told the Tass News Agency on Monday in Paris: “We have all the reasons to file an appeal with CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport). There are other considerations as well, but it is important that this issue is analyzed by specialists, lawyers who would talk with our partners having this knowledge.”
Russian sports leaders denounced the WADA decision as “politicized”.
Speaking on Russian state television, Vladimir Drachev, the head of the Russian Biathlon Union, called the decision “extremely wrong and biased”.
“Sports should stay separate from politics, and strong athletes should compete and represent their country, they should not perform under a neutral flag,” he said.
Alisher Usmanov, the Russian president of the International Fencing Federation, argued that, while the guilty “must definitely be punished as hard as possible”, the innocent should not be “deprived of the most important human rights”.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency, or RUSADA, criticized Russian sports leaders’ reaction to the ban, saying it showed they had not changed.
“This is yet another reason for our sporting leadership to think about whether we are moving in the right direction,” Margarita Pakhnotskaya, deputy chief of RUSADA, told Interfax. “It means our anti-doping culture has not changed.”
Some athletes spoke out against Russian sporting officials who, they believed, had not done enough to reform Russian sport despite repeated warnings.
Mariya Lasitskene, a world champion high jumper, criticized officials for defending athletes “in words only”, leaving athletes “alone in this fight”.