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Lab data turned over to the anti-doping agency was meant to clear the way for Russian athletes following an earlier doping suspension. Now WADA says Russia doctored the files, and is calling for another ban.
A panel at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended banning Russia from competing in all sporting events for the next four years, including the 2020 Olympic Games.
Monday's recommendation follows the conclusion of an investigation into a purported cover-up of doping by Russian athletes.
Earlier this year, Russia provided WADA with lab data on its athletes as part of a deal that would have ended the suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which had been linked to revelations of a vast state-supported doping program.
Read more: Opinion: It's time for WADA to make a U-turn
While the intention was to reveal past instances of doping and cover-ups, WADA's Compliance Review Committee instead says hundreds of positive tests were removed from the data. In a statement, WADA said the data was edited after Russia agreed to turn over the files.
"These activities were concealed by backdating of computer systems and data files in an attempt to make it appear that the Moscow data had been in their current state since 2015," read the statement.
Champions league final in jeopardy
The four-year ban would bar Russia from hosting major sporting events and prohibit the country from flying the Russian flag at major competitions. Russian athletes would have to compete as neutrals in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo next year, as well as at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and other major sporting events.
Russia was similarly banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyoengchang amid the fallout from a state-sponsored doping program. Russian athletes competed as "Olympic athletes from Russia," with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) limiting participation to athletes who had not previously been implicated in any drug-testing scandals or cover-ups.
This new ban could also jeopardize the status of international sporting matches currently scheduled to take place in Russia, including the 2021 Champions League final, one of soccer's most important games.
Innocent until proven guilty?
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, has expressed his opposition to a possible ban.
"Our principle is that the guilty ones must be punished as hard as possible and the innocent ones must be protected,'' he said last week.
WADA officials will reconvene on December 9 to make their final decision.
kp/cmk (AFP, AP)