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World Anti-Doping Agency imposes 4-year ban on Russia

Russia was slapped Monday with a four-year ban from international sports events, including next summer's Tokyo Olympics, over a longstanding doping scandal, although its athletes will still be able to compete if they can show they are clean competitors.

Russia's hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also may be stripped

Russia was slapped Monday with a four-year ban from international sports events, including next summer's Tokyo Olympics, over a longstanding doping scandal, although its athletes will still be able to compete if they can show they are clean competitors.

The ruling by the World Anti-Doping Agency's executive committee means that Russia's flag, name and anthem will not appear at the Tokyo Games, and the country also could be stripped of hosting world championships in Olympic sports.

The sanctions are the harshest punishment yet for Russian state authorities who were accused of tampering with a Moscow laboratory database. Russia's anti-doping agency can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days — an action it has signalled it would take.

"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial," outgoing WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or if their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling.

For soccer's 2022 World Cup, WADA said the Russian team will play under its name in the qualifying program in Europe. If it qualifies for Qatar, the name will have be changed to something neutral that likely would not include the word "Russia."

WATCH | WADA bans Russia from 2020 Olympics, 2022 World Cup:

WADA president Craig Reedie points to Russian belligerence in cleaning up its approach to sport. 0:34

'Flagrant manipulation'

At the past two track and field world championships, Russians competed as "Authorized Neutral Athlete." A softer line was taken ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, when the International Olympic Committee suspended the Russian Olympic body yet allowed athletes and teams to compete as "Olympic Athlete from Russia."

Going forward, "they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team," WADA president-elect Witold Banka told The Associated Press.

Legal fallout from the WADA ruling seems sure to dominate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which open on July 24.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged sports organizations to appeal and said WADA's ruling was "a continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria which has already become chronic."

WATCH | Russia gets 4-year doping ban:

World Anti-Doping Agency hands Russia 4-year ban from international sports events, including next summer's Tokyo Olympics.  2:13

The latest round of sanctions were imposed because tampering with the Moscow data was a new violation of anti-doping rules committed as recently as January.

WADA investigators and the IOC agreed that evidence showed Russian authorities corrupted data from the Moscow lab that was long sealed by security forces. Hundreds of potential doping cases were deleted and evidence falsely planted to shift the blame onto whistleblowers.

"Flagrant manipulation" of the data was "an insult to the sporting movement worldwide," the IOC said last month.

Doping watchdog's vice president frustrated

Athletes whose data was manipulated in the 2012-15 testing period now face disciplinary cases by their sport's governing body.

"Yes, we do know who those athletes are. They will be kept out of the [Tokyo] Games," said British lawyer Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the WADA panel whose proposed sanctions were unanimously approved Monday.

However, WADA's inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog's vice president.

"I'm not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go," said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA's executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. "This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced."

WATCH | Beckie Scott disappointed with WADA ruling:

The chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency athlete committee says the scale of Russia's cheating should strip all Russian athletes of the right to compete. 0:41

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants them directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

That position was opposed by most of WADA's athlete commission. It wanted the kind of blanket ban Russia avoided for the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations following Russia's hosting of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement that WADA's move is insufficient.

"To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law," Tygart said.  "And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform."

Russia can appeal

Russia previously signalled it would appeal the ruling. That must be filed by the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA. That body was declared non-compliant on Monday, 15 months after it was reinstated by WADA in defiance of athlete opposition.

The decision to appeal has been stripped from RUSADA chief executive Yuri Ganus, an independent figure criticizing Russian authorities' conduct on the doping data issue. Authority was passed to the agency's supervisory board after an intervention led by the Russian Olympic Committee.

The ROC on Saturday labelled the expected sanctions as "illogical and inappropriate."

A logo of the Russian Olympic Committee is seen on the facade of its headquarters in Moscow. The decision to move forward with the ban was unanimous, a WADA spokesperson said. (AFP via Getty Images)

Russia has stuck to its claim that deceptive edits in the data were in fact made by WADA's star witness, Grigory Rodchenkov. The former Moscow lab director's flight into the witness protection program in the United States was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary.

"As usual, Russia has disregarded all of its promises and obligations to clean sport," Rodchenkov said Monday in a statement from his lawyers.

The International Paralympic Committee issued the following statement after Monday's ruling:

"Those responsible for the manipulation of data from the Moscow Laboratory before it was transferred to WADA appear to have done everything possible to undermine the principles of fair and clean sport, principles that the rest of the sporting world support and adhere to. 

"This sincere lack of respect towards the rest of the global sporting movement is not welcome and has zero place in the world of sport. It is only right that those responsible for this data manipulation are punished."

Added Canadian Paralympic Committee president Marc-André Fabien: "On behalf of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, I would like to thank WADA for their ongoing work on this matter and their efforts in ensuring a clean and fair sporting field for all. We firmly believe in clean, fair play and that cheating has absolutely no place in sport, and we remain committed to living by these values every day.

NHL star Alex Ovechkin, who has competed at three Olympics for Russia, expressed disappointment at the ruling.

Soccer body UEFA not bound by ruling

"We look forward to receiving the final outcome from the International Paralympic Committee regarding Russia's position in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing."

Sports fans worldwide will still be watching top-tier events from Russia in the next four years despite the hosting ban.

In soccer, St. Petersburg will still host four games at the 2020 European Championship and the 2021 Champions League final, because European soccer body UEFA is not bound by the ruling. Nor is the Formula 1 racing series, which goes to Sochi's Olympic Park for a race each year.

"The contract is valid through 2025," Russian Grand Prix spokeswoman Tatyana Rivnaya told the AP in a telephone interview.

World championships in lower-profile Olympic sports, including luge in two months and wrestling in 2022, could stay in Russia due to legal difficulties moving them.

"There will be practical issues," Taylor acknowledged, "and we can't ignore those."

With files from CBC News

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