Tokyo Olympics 2021: Russia's doping ban upheld, but halved to two years

A Swiss court has upheld doping sanctions that will prevent Russian athletes from competing at major international events under the country's flag, but halved the period of the ban from four years to two.

The ruling will leave Russian athletes without their flag and national anthem at next year's Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, a severe blow to Russian sport that has been tarnished in recent years by a string of doping scandals.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) originally banned Russia from the world's top sporting events for four years in December 2019, but the sanction could not be implemented until the end of the appeal process.

New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley says it is disappointed the four-year ban has been reduced.

"We have noted today’s decision from CAS to impose a two-year ban on Russia from global sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympic Games and Beijing Olympic Winter Games, towards which our athletes are working so hard.

"We and many of our athletes supported the four-year proposed ban by WADA, and are disappointed to see it significantly reduced. 

"We do note that CAS has nonetheless stressed the reduced term in no way vindicates Russia’s complete disregard for integrity in sport.

"We also note that there is a pathway for clean Russian athletes to take part in the upcoming Olympic Games as 'neutral', however are disappointed the Russian colours may be worn. We call on the IFs and IOC to implement a fair, transparent and evenly applied system for clean athletes to participate. 

"The upcoming editions of the Olympic Games will be incredibly challenging for athletes and we urge all measures be taken to ensure they have the utmost confidence in a fair field of play, underscored by the highest degrees of respect and integrity. 

"We acknowledge WADA has meanwhile embarked on a process towards governance reform. We urge them to work towards a new structure with a majority of independent directors that places a respected and valued athlete voice at its core."

Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA is not fully satisfied with the decision.

"It seems that not all the arguments presented by our lawyers were heard," says Mikhail Bukhanov, the agency's acting head.

Many Russian athletes were sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country was deprived of its flag at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Games in southern Russia.

Russia, which has previously acknowledged some shortcomings in its implementation of anti-doping policies, denies running a state-sponsored doping programme.