Russia has been banned for four years from taking part in major sporting competitions after investigations uncovered further evidence of tampering with doping data.
Under the ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the country will not be allowed to participate in the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, while Russian athletes cleared to compete in other sports will not be able to do so under the Russian flag.
At a press conference in Lausanne, WADA chiefs explained how the ban will work, and whether the international sporting community will continue to see Russia compete via loopholes.
"Can we be definitive as to what each individual case means? No," admitted Jonathan Taylor QC, the Chair of WADA's Compliance Review Committee. "But it will need to be subject to guidelines."
Taylor outlined how a team representing Russia cannot participate - but a team of Russian footballers may be able to compete as neutrals. "Athletes will be neutral and not represent any country."
If FIFA want to activate a mechanism to allow this, it will have to be approved by WADA who, Taylor said, will ensure "there is a standardised approach."
"The rules are tougher and tighter because we learned about difficulties the first time round," said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie.
Reedie said in a statement, that the "blatant breach" demanded a "robust response". "For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport."
In addition to the ban on the Russian flag being flown at competitions, WADA also barred Russia from hosting or bidding to host any major sporting events during that period. Russian officials or government representatives will not be allowed to participate in or attend the Youth Olympics (summer and winter), the Olympics and Paralympic Games (summer and winter) or any other major competitions including World Championships.
"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial," Reedie said.
"As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts."
The decision came after a meeting of the Executive Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, which endorsed all the sanctions recommended last month by the Review Committee.
Russia will also have to pay all costs WADA has incurred on this file since January 2019, as well as a fine of up to $100,000 (€90,380).
The country has 21 days to appeal the decision.
Yuri Ganus, Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) chief executive was clearly expecting it.
"Unfortunately, nothing supernatural happened. The WADA executive board made a decision in complete accordance with the compliance review committee recommendations," he said.
"The changes were significant, they were substantial, parts of data were deleted, including right before the actual transfer of data itself. Those changes have also negatively affected and stalled the WADA investigation," he added.
Meanwhile, our correspondent Galina Polonskaya went to the Russian sports ministry’s press conference in Moscow. They’ve responded to the ban, calling the decision “chaotic” and that they will do what they can to appeal the decision. Watch the video above to find out more how Russia plans to go forward, following the announcement of a four year ban from international sports.
State-sponsored doping scandal
WADA's Review Committee had ruled in late November that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) should be declared non-compliant after an investigation revealed further inconsistencies in the data obtained from the Moscow Laboratory.
WADA first found evidence of widespread cheating in Russian sport in late 2015, prompting the International Association of Athletics Federations — the athletics governing body — to bar Russian athletes from participating in any of its competitions.
The following year, an independent investigation found evidence of a state-sponsored programme of doping during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics overseen by the Russian Ministry for Sport.
More than 110 Russian athletes were barred from taking part in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, while those allowed to compete in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea had to do so under the title "Olympic Athlete from Russia".
The Russian flag was also scrubbed from their gear and their anthem replaced by the Olympic Anthem. It came after the International Olympic Committee suspended the Russian chapter.
WADA's investigative team found that the database provided in January 2019 by the Moscow Laboratory had been altered to remove " hundreds of presumptive adverse analytical findings" in the 2015 database provided by a whistleblower.
The agency said that between late November 2018 and early January 2019, someone in the Moscow Laboratory "planted fabricated evidence" to "support the argument now being advanced by the Russian authorities that it was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and two co-conspirators who falsified entries" in the database "to extort money from athletes".
WADA Vice-President, Linda Hofstad Helleland denounced the sanctions as "not enough."
"I would have preferred to support a blanket ban today," she wrote in a statement. "A blanket ban can make the Russian leadership realise the seriousness of the mess they have created — for themselves, and for their athletes."
"Unless we impose sanctions that really wake Russian leaders up, hold them accountable and make them acknowledge the facts — how can we be sure that the system will ever change?" she added.
Ed Moses, Chairman of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and former Olympic 400m hurdles champion, welcomed the sanctions.
"Politics and anti-doping don't work" he told reporters after the announcement, adding that doping is a "contemptible and criminal activity."
He empathised with Russian athletes not involved in doping, saying it must be tough to live "in that kind of environment."
Moses reminded the media that he sat out the 1980 Olympics in Moscow due to politics.
"This behaviour started way before Putin," he added.