A four-year ban on participating and hosting major international competitions has been imposed on Russia by the World anti-doping agency (WADA) due to the respective Russian authority (RUSADA) „manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019“. As per BBC, the ban refers to the summer and winter Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and in Beijing in 2022, as well as to all World Championships.
And if at first glance this seems like a punishment too cruel, athletes who are able to prove they are and have been clean will be able to compete under a neutral flag, as „Olympic/Neutral athlete(s) from Russia“, similar to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympics. The winners will have to hear the Olympic anthem and the medals won won’t be counted towards Russia’s accomplishments.
RUSADA has 21 days to appeal this (unanimous) decision in the Sports arbitrage court (CAS).
It’s worth to mention that all the way back in 2016, all athletes representing „sbornaya“ needed to be approved by the respective federation in order to compete at the OG in Rio, Brazil. Mere months before those in South Korea, some winter competitors were refused an invitation by the IOC, including figure skaters Ivan Bukin and Kseniya Stolbova who both compete in pairs and therefore their partners were also unable to participate.
In the world of gymnastics:
How will this affect major RG events?
Starting in February, several RG competitions are to be held in 2020 – Grand Prix tournaments, World and World Challenge Cups, the European Championships, and finally, the long-awaited Games in Tokyo. Since the former 3 are not considered „major“ sport events, Russian gymnasts will be affected by this ban no earlier than on the occasion of the Olympics.
First of all, next to their name won’t be the Russian flag, but the IOC one. Competitors will be announced as „Olympic athlete(s) from Russia“, their leotards must be free of the well-known Russian coat of arms – a two-headed eagle, and the required by the IOC tracksuits should be in neutral colors, different from those on their country’s flag.
Instead of the anthem every gymnastics fan knows by heart, the winners and the audience would have to listen to „Olympic flame immortal“. Fans in the crowd will also be barred from displaying Russian symbols and head coach of the RG national team Irina Viner-Usmanova will be deprived of the opportunity to wear her favorite tricolor hat, as she does during every major competition.
All of this will be applied as well during the next few World Championships – in 2021, 2022 (Sofia, Bulgaria) and 2023 (Valencia, Spain), with the clarification that, even though Viner-Usmanova voiced such intention herself, Moscow and its brand new Rhythmic gymnastics palace will be refused the right to host the 2021 Worlds. Questions emerge as well on Nataliya Kuzmina’s participation in FIG’s RG Technical Committee – she currently serves a second term as president to this TC.
Still, to be able to participate in the biggest competitions, all gymnasts will have to prove that they are and have been clean, through several doping tests, which are likely to take place in foreign laboratories.
If a certain gymnasts is denied participation (to the OG, for example), the NF and the Russian Olympic Committee can name a substitute or give up the respective quota to the next best qualified from the World Championships in Baku.