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WADA panel recommends neutral status for Russia at Olympics

Russian athletes should be forced to compete as neutrals at next year's Olympics in Tokyo and other major events, a key World Anti-Doping Agency panel recommended Monday.

Russian Olympic Committee also pressures athletics leaders to reform in wake of doping scandal

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said Monday he wants to see 'a complete change' of management to the country's athletics federation after its former leader was implicated in obstructing an anti-doping investigation. (Stephen Wade/The Associated Press/File)

Russian athletes should be forced to compete as neutrals at next year's Olympics in Tokyo and other major events, a key World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel recommended Monday.

Athletes from the neutral team would not wear national colours and if one wins a gold medal, the IAAF anthem is played.

WADA's compliance review committee proposed a four-year ban on hosting major events in Russia and a ban for the same period on flying the Russian flag at major competitions.

The WADA executive committee will rule on the recommendations Dec. 9.

That follows a lengthy investigation into lab data handed over by Russia in January. That was part of a deal to lift a suspension of the Russian anti-doping agency, and was meant to expose past coverups of drug use by Russian athletes.

Instead, the WADA panel said data on hundreds of positive tests were removed.

Russia was officially banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang but allowed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to send a 168-strong team under the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia."

Those numbers were also restricted by IOC vetting of athletes' history of drug-testing and whether they were implicated in any apparent coverups.

The panel's recommendation would create a similar system lasting four years and covering not just the Tokyo Olympics but also the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and world championships in numerous sports.

Russia could be stripped of previously awarded events

The expert panel's advice could have serious implications for European soccer body UEFA if accepted in full by WADA's executive committee.

The recommendations include stripping Russia of sports events already awarded "unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so."

WADA said the most recent edits to the vast lab data archive were made in December 2018 and January this year, after Russia had agreed to hand over the data.

At the time, Russia was delaying the handover, saying WADA experts' equipment needed to be certified under Russian law before it could take place.

"These activities were concealed by backdating of computer systems and data files in an attempt to make it appear that the Moscow data had been in their current state since 2015," WADA said in a statement.

WADA added that messages were planted to implicate former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, who later became a witness for WADA, and two other people.

It didn't name any athletes whose tests were covered up.

ROC calling for overhaul of Russia's athletics federation

Earlier on Monday, the Russian Olympic Committee added to the pressure on the country's athletics federation, calling for entirely new leadership after its president was implicated in obstructing an anti-doping investigation.

ROC president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said he wants to see "a complete change of the whole management" at the federation after meeting its interim head Yulia Tarasenko on Monday.

She took office Saturday, replacing Dmitry Shlyakhtin, who resigned after he became one of seven Russians charged in the obstruction case.

Pozdnyakov said the case damages Russia's effort to restore its sports standing after doping scandals, and "inflicts colossal reputational damage on our country as a whole."

Alleged fake documents at centre of charges

The charges centre on allegedly fake medical documents used as an alibi by the high jumper Danil Lysenko after he was accused of failing to make himself available for drug testing. Besides Shlyakhtin, four other officials, Lysenko and his coach are facing charges from the Athletics Integrity Unit.

The ROC could exclude the federation from membership if it doesn't appoint new management. The federation is already facing possible expulsion by World Athletics, and the Russian Sports Ministry has suggested it could withdraw recognition.

In a case with striking similarities to that of Lysenko, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency said Monday that a weightlifter had been banned for four years for using a false medical document.

The agency, known as RUSADA, said former world junior champion Konstantin Roshchupkin was facing questions over his whereabouts for testing purposes when he produced the document.

RUSADA investigators determined it was fake and said he was banned for four years.

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