At a ruling today at the Court Of Arbitration For Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, Russia’s proposed four year sporting ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was reduced to two years, meaning that Russia will be banned from participating in any international sporting competition, including the 2021 Summer and 2022 Winter Olympics, until 17 December 2022.
The ban, similar to that of their 2017 ban from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, means that Russia as a nation will be unable to participate in international sporting events, although pre-cleared athletes not part of any doping scandal would be allowed to participate under the Olympic flag and a title of “Neutral Athlete / Team From Russia.” The ruling upheld WADA’s original findings of regular inconsistencies and missing content in the laboratory data handed over from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which was believed to be further tampering of athlete tests and a failure to cooperate with WADA.
This now means the Russian flag will not only be unable to fly at the postponed Summer Olympics this July in Tokyo, as well as the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, but at other major sporting events between now and December 2022, including the rescheduled UEFA Euro 2020 and 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournaments, along with any IIHF-sanctioned senior hockey tournaments. The ruling also strips Russia of hosting any world championships, “unless legally or practically impossible to do so.”
From a hockey perspective, Russia is set to host the 2023 World Junior Championships in Omsk and Novosibirsk starting on 26 December 2022, just nine days after their ban is upheld, while the 2023 World Men’s Championship is scheduled for Saint Petersburg in May 2023; it is unclear whether junior teams would be impacted by the ban. This would likely change, however, any potential plans to relocate games from Minsk to Moscow for the upcoming 2021 World Championships in May due to political unrest in Belarus, so an alternative new host would need to be considered.
In addition, Russian hockey teams will be forced to play under a neutral flag and jersey for the next two men’s and women’s tournaments held around the world, and the Olympic Athletes From Russia squad that captured men’s hockey Gold in 2018 will be forced to defend their title under a neutral flag and anthem; whether they would retain “Olympic” in their name for the Tokyo and Beijing Games is to be determined.
This will likely not impact the men’s players as much, as most men’s players are already drug tested under their professional league’s guidelines, and the 2022 Olympics will now be featuring NHL players, who are tested under strict NHL guidelines. The women’s team, however, will be heavily impacted, as eight players were banned from the Olympics for life as part of the 2017 ban, and these women could now be impacted on the world championship level.
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation has already responded, noting: “The male and female Russian national teams will compete at the two upcoming World Championships (2021 and 2022) and at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The players’ jerseys can be designed in the colours of the flag and the word “Russia” can be on the jerseys. At the same time, the players will compete in a neutral status (without the national flag and the national anthem). The decision does not concern the junior and under 18 World Championships. The RIHF will continue to defend its rights in all international instances.”
The IIHF has yet to comment on the CAS’ ruling, but given that no events will now need to be rescheduled out of Russia in 2023, the issues will now come down to team nomenclature, and how the women’s team will be represented at the next two Women’s World Championships, and the 2022 Beijing Olympics.