The four-year ban on Russia competing in international athletic competition because of its state-sponsored doping program was cut to two years Thursday by a court in Switzerland. The country will still be banned from next year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
The decision was issued by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the final arbiter for global sports disputes. The ruling will also keep Russia out of the 2022 World Cup football tournament and other global competitions.
Some Russian athletes will still be able to compete as neutrals, but the country’s anthem will not be played, nor will its white, blue and red flag be displayed.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued its four-year ban last year. Russia dismissed the ban, calling the action politically motivated.
It was not clear why the three-judge arbitration court reduced Russia’s punishment, even as it largely agreed with the anti-doping agency’s conclusions in the case. The court stressed that Russia should not claim the decision was any kind of vindication.
“This panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the noncompliance and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained,” the judges wrote.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday that its arbitrators met with the doping agency and Russian officials for four days last month.
At the center of the case was a demand by the anti-doping agency that Russia turn over data from a Moscow laboratory as part of conditions the agency set for the country to be reinstated. But WADA said Russia deleted and altered the data, prompting the agency to issue its ban.
The doping scheme involved Russian state security agents replacing tainted doping test samples with clean ones during middle-of-the-night operations at the 2014 Winter Olympics that Russia hosted in the coastal resort of Sochi.