CAS Upholds Ban On Russia, But Shortens It To Two Years

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) partially upheld a ban on Russia‘s participation in international sport, reducing the ban from four years to two.


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) imposed the ban about a year ago by declaring the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) as non-compliant. The ban came after a lengthy doping scandal for Russia in which the McLaren Reports detailed a large, state-sponsored doping program to help shield Russian athletes from bans. RUSADA fell out of compliance around the time of the McLaren Reports in 2016. One major condition of RUSADA‘s reinstatement was that Russia turn over full lab data from its Moscow anti-doping lab. But Russia missed the deadline to turn over the data, and when it did, WADA said the data had been doctored when compared to data leaked by a whistleblower in 2017.

Reduced Suspension

You can read the full CAS announcement of its decision here.

CAS unanimously found RUSADA non-compliant. But the four-year ban was reduced to a two-year ban that will end on December 16, 2022.

The ban doesn’t keep Russian athletes entirely out of international sporting events, But it will bar Russia as a nation from competing in the Tokyo Summer Olympics next year, as well as the 2022 Winter Olympics. Russian athletes can compete under a neutral banner like they did at the 2018 Winter Olympics as the “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

The ban mostly affects Russia at the administrative level, preventing Russian officials from sitting as members of boards for major sporting institutions who are WADA signatories. Russia is also banned from hosting world-level sporting events or bidding on world-level sporting events for the two-year period.

The CAS ruling appears to limit the hosting ban a bit, too. Where WADA‘s decision barred Russia from hosting any major sporting event, the CAS decision very specifically bars Russia from hosting the Olympics, Paralympics, and any World Championships.

That would leave an opening for Kazan, Russia to remain the host city for the 2021 European Short Course Swimming Championships. We’ve emailed the European swimming federation for clarification on if Kazan will remain the host or whether an alternate host will be found.

A few other notes on the ban from the CAS decision:

  • The Russian flag cannot be flown or displayed by organizers in any venue at the Olympics, Paralympics, or World Championships. The Russian anthem will not be officially sung or played.
  • Athlete uniforms can include the word “Russia,” but must also include the words “Neutral Athlete” in a position or size at least as prominent as “Russia.”
  • Russian athletes can compete at the Olympics, Paralympics, or World Championships under the following condition: “The Athlete/Athlete Support Personnel shall not be subject to suspension, restriction, condition or exclusion imposed by a competent authority in any past or future proceedings which remains in force at the time of the specified event.”
    • It’s not clear yet whether this means Russian athletes will have to show that they weren’t specifically implicated in the McLaren Report to compete at the 2020 and 2022 Olympics.


WADA: Pleased with a ‘win’, but disappointed in limited sanctions

WADA released a statement calling the ruling a win, but expressing disappointment that CAS hadn’t endorsed all of WADA‘s original sanctions, including the four-year ban. Here’s the full quote from WADA President Witold Banka:

WADA is pleased to have won this landmark case. We left no stone unturned in investigating this very complex matter and in presenting our case before CAS. The 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. In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case, in accordance with due process. In that regard, this ruling is an important moment for clean sport and athletes all over the world.

“We are, however, disappointed that the CAS Panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested. We believe they were proportionate and reasonable, but ultimately WADA is not the judge but the prosecutor and we must respect the decision of the Panel. These are still the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offences and the award clearly endorses the resolute, process-driven approach taken by WADA in dealing effectively with this case. Russia will not be permitted to participate in, bid for or host any covered event, including two editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and many other major events, for the next two years. The Russian flag will not fly nor its anthem played. This sends a clear message that institutionalized cheating and concerted efforts to subvert the global anti-doping system will not be tolerated.

“The egregious manipulation by the Russian authorities of data retrieved by WADA Intelligence and Investigations from the Moscow Laboratory was the latest in a long list of offences and it has led today to significant consequences for the authorities. Russian authorities were afforded every opportunity to get their house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of their athletes and the integrity of sport, but they chose instead to continue on their path of deception and denial.”

RUSADA: Ready to Cooperate for regained compliance, concerned about effects to clean athletes

RUSADA released its own statement saying it wasn’t fully satisfied with the CAS decision. RUSADA said that WADA wanted to punish clean Russian athletes along with those guilty of doping, and called the more limited ruling a “victory of common sense.” RUSADA head Mikhail Bukhanov said the organization is ready to fulfill the conditions for its reinstatement to WADA compliance. Here’s his full statement, roughly translated from Russian:

“It seems that not all the arguments presented by our lawyers were heard, but we fully welcome the responsible and reasonable approach of the arbitrators in relation to ‘pure’ Russian athletes, as well as the principle of ‘collective responsibility’ imposed by WADA in relation to all Russian sports. Agreeing with the logic of RUSADA and other international sports organizations and refusing WADA to impose sanctions on innocent Russian athletes, the arbitration showed justice in this landmark case for sports arbitration practice and made a decision that meets the interests of the entire international sports community.

Otherwise, the principle of ‘collective responsibility’ imposed by WADA, which fundamentally contradicts the foundations of the international Olympic charter, could become a dangerous precedent threatening the entire Olympic movement. For example, it would be unlawful and absolutely unfair to deprive all drivers of their rights just because some of them were caught driving while intoxicated. So in this case – ‘clean’ athletes should not be held responsible for the actions of some unscrupulous athletes who committed anti-doping rule violations.

The fact that WADA was unable to convince the CAS referees to punish ‘clean’ athletes from Russia, and along with them the Russian sports organizations and federations, is a victory of common sense, giving “clean” athletes from other countries a chance to defend themselves.

RUSADA, being recognized as inconsistent with the WADA Code, expresses its readiness to fulfill the conditions of restoration and cooperation with all international anti-doping structures, including WADA, which has publicly recognized the success of our agency in its current activities and named it among the best anti-doping agencies.

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1 year ago

Step 1: receive punishment from WADA.
Step 2: have CAS reduce the punishment by at least half.

I ask in all sincerity, has there ever been a case where CAS did NOT reduce the punishment? Do they ever uphold it?

Reply to  Roch
1 year ago

It happens all the time. In the Sun Yang case they increased the punishment, for example.

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Thank you for the reminder of Sun Yang. It must be my own biases affecting my memory, because it feels like all they do is reduce punishments. I’m glad to hear that’s not the case.

1 year ago

Not surprised.

1 year ago

CAS should have added two years!

Reply to  Snarky
1 year ago

Nothing but a slap on the wrist

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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