Russia has been formally banned for four years from international sporting competition, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the football World Cup in Qatar by WADA, the anti-doping authority. But the ban is by no means a blanket one, that means clean Russian athletes will be allowed to compete, even if under a neutral flag like that of the IOC. It’s bit of a sham arrangement by which even its national soccer team can qualify and compete in Qatar, but not officially as Russia.
The major charge is that Russia was complicit in covering up systemic support for sportsmen doping up to enhance performance and denying honest athletes. The Russian secret service was caught surreptitiously replacing urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean samples at the Sochi Winter Olympics, on which a whistleblower who defected to the US threw light and on other forms of systematic cheating.
Russia is certain to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as its sports minister hinted, while Vladimir Putin has condemned the action outright as politically motivated. He makes the point that any punishment should be individual and can’t be collective and apply to those who have nothing to do with violations. The problem is that the state-sponsored cheating of the Communist era isn’t over yet in Russia.
Global sport is rife with doping in track and field as well as many other disciplines. Even as testing gains greater sophistication, cheats manage to stay a step ahead in a complex world of blood doping to the extent that there’s no such thing as a clean or untainted competition. However, if WADA is serious in its mission of preserving the integrity of sport it should have banned Russia altogether. This quasi ban serves no purpose.