WADA's Executive Committee is set to decide whether to follow a review panel recommendation to ban Russia from major sporting events for four years. If it does, Russian athletes stand to miss the 2020 and 2022 Olympics.
All eyes are set to turn to Lausanne. The 12 Executive Committee members of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had originally planned to meet in Paris, but a general strike in the French capital complicated matters. So the organizers moved the meeting to the small Swiss city on Lake Geneva, but still the potential for chaos and division remains high. Pressure from all sides is mounting; the atmosphere is highly charged.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry has described the situation as "a fight without rules, perhaps even a war" against her country. The stakes are high indeed, with Russia potentially facing a ban from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Before making a final decision, the Executive Committee will gather one last time around outgoing WADA CEO Sir Craig Reedie. The Scotsman has been widely criticized for his lack of severity in the Russian doping scandal. His successor, Witold Banka, will also be present. The Pole takes office at the turn of the year and in an interview with DW in October, he said that he planned to take a harder line on Russia.
Tougher punishments demanded for Russia
The recommendations that the Executive Committee is to consider were issued by WADA's Compliance Review Committee late last month. It said that the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) should be declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code over erased and manipulated data sent to WADA in an effort to conceal the extent of doping in the country. It described this as "an extremely serious case of non-compliance."
The data referred to was obtained by WADA from RUSADA's Moscow laboratory in January of this year as part of a probe into allegations of systematic doping that have plagued Russia for years. Full disclosure of the data was a key condition of Russia's controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.
If the Executive Committee follows the Review Committee's recommendations, Russia will not be allowed to participate in or host major sporting events such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games or World Championships for four years. Russian officials would also be banned from attending these competitions for the same period. Athletes could, however, compete under a neutral flag after testing, as was the case at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
EURO 2020 not affected
However, WADA's definition of what constitutes a major sporting event is narrow. EURO 2020, for instance, will not be affected by possible sanctions because, according to WADA, it is a "continental" event. This also applies to the final of the 2021 Champions League Final, to be hosted by St. Petersburg.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also left a loophole open. The organization has entrusted WADA with the sanctioning of this case and, as a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, is bound by its decision. But IOC spokesman Marc Adams said with regard to potential punishments: "How things will continue afterwards is not entirely clear. We still have a long way to go." It's conceivable that the IOC will claim the Olympic Games are an invitational event at which special regulations apply.
If the Executive Committee members do approve the recommendations, Russia will have 21 days to accept or challenge the penalty. In the latter event, the case would be brought before the International Court of Sport (CAS). The hearing could take a long time, and it is unclear whether CAS could be expected to reach a decision before Tokyo 2020.
German athletes' spokesman demands consistent action
German saber fencer Max Hartung won't be satisfied with any half measures.
"I expect that the sanctions decided on will be enforced consistently," the spokesman for the Athletes' Commission of the German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) told DW: "Just as we athletes are called upon to abide by the rules, so must our opponents also respect them."
The tone from Russia is quite different: "A punishment is unacceptable from a legal and logical point of view," said Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of Russia's Olympic committee.
Whichever side you're on, the eyes of the sporting world will be on Lausanne on Monday. Outgoing WADA President Craig Reedie is to announce the decision at 12:30 UTC.