The Court of Arbitration for sport reduces Russia's doping ban to two years

14 January 2021


Last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA's) Executive Committee ("ExCo") unanimously endorsed the recommendation of the Independent Compliance Review Committee ("CRC") that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ("RUSADA") be declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code ("Code") for a period of four years over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation. Consequently, Russia was to be banned from international sports events for four years. Shortly after the decision by WADA's ExCo, Russia appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport ("CAS") pursuant to article 10.4.1 of the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories

On December 17, 2020, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ("CAS") issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between the World Anti-Doping Agency ("WADA") and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ("RUSADA"). In its arbitral award, the CAS' three judge panel partially upheld the decision of WADA's ExCo, unanimously ruling that the RUSADA was non-compliant with the Code as it failed to procure: (i) an authentic copy of specific analytical data held at the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre; and (ii) related urine samples from storage held in the Moscow laboratory. While the court upheld the international sports ban levied against the Russian Federation, it nonetheless reduced the duration of the ban in half from four years to two. The decision was rendered following a four-day arbitration procedure with 50 intervening parties.

The CAS' ruling effectively means that Russia will have no formal presence at the 2021 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The sanctions further apply to world sports championships. While Russian athletes will still be able to compete if they are able to show that they are clean competitors, they will not be permitted to represent the Russian Federation and must compete under a neutral frag. In rendering its decision, the CAS noted that it imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance of the RUSADA and to maintain the integrity of sport without doping. The CAS' Panel considered matters of proportionality and the need to encourage athletes to participate in clean sport.

Although decisions of the CAS can be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the RUSADA is unlikely to exercise any right of appeal. In a statement, the acting head of the RUSADA, Mikhail Bukhanov, stated: "Today's results are a victory for Russia." He noted that the CAS did not limit the rights of clean athletes to take part in the Olympics, Paralympics and world championships and the court correctly decided to not accept the demands of WADA. On the other hand, the president of WADA stated that: "WADA is pleased to have won this landmark case […]. In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case, in accordance with due process." Ultimately, the CAS' decision sets a significant precedent in international sport.

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