Backlash against Cas as full ruling on halving of Russia ban published

Ben Rumsby
·4-min read
Russian flag and Olympics rigns 
Russian flag and Olympics rigns

Sport’s highest court stood accused on Wednesday of encouraging “illegality, fraud and obstruction” following the publication of the full ruling that led to Russia’s ban from world sport being cut in half.

There were calls for “immediate reforms” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) after the 186-page arbitral award laid bare how the decision to reduce further a punishment already branded too soft had been reached. That included how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other intervening parties successfully argued at November’s hearing for a watering down of the four-year ban on Russia’s flag, anthem and team name at the Olympics and other global championships – as well as on it hosting them.

That ban had been imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency over the manipulation of laboratory data linked to sport’s worst drugs scandal. The panel halved it – and softened several other elements of Wada’s sanction – despite ruling that there had been “a cover up of the cover-up” of the Russian doping scandal that meant “it will never be possible to know the number of cheating athletes or officials who may have escaped detection”.

It even added: “The manipulations show that the Russian authorities remain as willing as ever to interfere with, and corrupt, the anti-doping system.”

Jim Walden, lawyer for Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who blew the whistle on the scandal and is now in hiding in the United States, said: “Cas’s decision diagnosed stage-four cancer in Russia and treated it with a Band-Aid. Cas has neither the tools, the experience nor the resolve to mete out justice and create deterrence. Cas’s weakness encourages more illegality, fraud and obstruction.”

Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the man who brought down Lance Armstrong and Mo Farah’s former coach, Alberto Salazar, said: “The full decision frankly only rubs salt in the deep wounds of clean athletes and further undermines the global anti-doping system by confirming Russia perpetrated the most massive fraud on sport and clean athletes, was repeatedly caught red-handed covering it up but then handed Russia essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s inexplicable.

“And, while the full decision today is inexplicable in many ways, we all knew there was no way the IOC was going to allow Russia to be banned. The IOC and Wada are trying to put this behind them as soon as they can even though justice has not been served and there is still lots of work to do to ensure clean sport survives.”

Nicole Sapstead, the chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, said: “The full decision from Cas goes no way to reducing our frustration at the reduction and caveats of the sanctions imposed on Russia.

“The Cas panel acknowledges that more severe sanctions would impact the new generation of Russian athletes, but this egregious attack on the values of sport was perpetrated by the administrators and officials who will not feel the consequences of their behaviour.”

Rob Koehler, the former Wada deputy director general who now heads Global Athlete, said: “This decision once again displays the immediate reforms are required at Cas. It’s simply unthinkable that the arbitrators on one hand confirm the deliberate cheating by Russia to undermine clean sport and then on the other hand reduce the sanction.

“The fact that Cas is chaired by the IOC vice-president is an issue and whether there are real or perceived conflicts of interests, they’re there, and it undermines the credibility and the independence of Cas. Athletes have lost confidence in its independence.

“Today once again showcases that athletes are held to a higher standard than stakeholders that purposely and deliberately undermine the very system in place to protect clean athletes. This is another reason why athletes and national anti-doping organisations from 14 countries are calling for a full reform of the anti-doping system, including Wada, that is more independent and athlete-centred.”

The IOC declined to comment, having previously stated that its intervention in the proceedings had merely been to ensure “the pronounced sanctions are clear, leave no room for any interpretation and can be applied without any further procedures”.

Wada president Witold Bańka said: “The full Cas reasoned decision shows clearly that Wada successfully proved its case and exposed the Russian authorities’ brazen attempts to manipulate data from the Moscow Laboratory in an effort to thwart our investigations.

“We remain disappointed, however, that Cas did not agree with all of our proposed consequences, which we felt were proportionate to the egregious nature of the offences committed by the Russian authorities as they sought to cover up the details of their institutionalised doping scheme.”