Russia has been banned from major sporting competitions for the next four years by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Most notably, the ban will withhold the country from competing at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
WADA was forced to come down with the severe punishment Monday after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) continued to be non-compliant into several probes investigating multiple doping allegations.
While it had been long suspected that Russian athletes were taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) on the international sporting stage, a groundbreaking discovery by WADA’s Richard McLaren in 2016 revealed to the New York Times that Russian officials have been supplying their athletes with illegal substances for years.
It was later described as “one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history,” as over 1,000 athletes across 30 sports were involved in the doping program.
That included during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — where 28 Russian athletes were accused of doping — and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro that saw over 100 Russians withheld from competing rather than the country being banned.
Per the New York Times’ report three years ago, a deputy sports minister ordered that the athletes’ abuse of these substances was to be covered up.
The unveiling of the widespread deceit led to Russia being unable to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, but clean Russian athletes were allowed to compete under a neutral flag.
That will also be the case for clean athletes in upcoming major competitions — including the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. As the host country of the 2018 World Cup, Russia advanced to the quarterfinals before getting knocked out by eventual runners-up, Croatia.
If Russia qualifies for the 2022 World Cup, they will compete as a neutral team. However, they will compete under the Russian flag in the 2020 European Championships because UEFA — the continent’s governing body — is not a part of WADA’s jurisdiction.
RUSADA has three weeks to accept the decision or appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The latter is believed to be the most likely option.
“I am 100% sure [Russia will go to court] because we must defend our athletes,” Russian State Duma lower parliament house deputy chairperson, Svetlana Zhurova told TASS News Agency (h/t CNN).