Will Russian athletes be banned from all international events in the coming four years? That is the big question if the global anti-doping agency WADA meets Monday in Lausanne on another crucial day in the ongoing Russian doping scandal.
Nothing is definitive in the Russian doping story; the many plot twists in the past five years have proved that. But Monday's WADA decision - eight months before the Tokyo Olympics - promises to be very significant.
The top of the global anti-doping agency speaks in Lausanne about the findings and recommendations of its own Compliance Review Committee (CRC), the special committee that investigated the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA and specifically the data from the former doping lab in Moscow that Russia at the beginning of this year after a long tug of war.
The committee was anything but mild in its judgment. According to the CRC, there has been a lot of fiddling with the data provided and a ban of four years for all international competitions - and therefore also the 2020 and 2022 Games - would be an appropriate punishment.
Chances are that WADA will follow the recommendations of its own investigation committee, a step that would be welcomed by many parties outside Russia. For example, the umbrella institute for national anti-doping agencies called iNADO the evidence the CRC has collected "impressive". "And the extent of the ongoing corruption is appalling," iNADO added.
The IOC International Olympic Committee has been heavily criticized in the past for having been too mild for Russia, but the organization now seems to be in line with WADA's judgment anyway. IOC chairman Thomas Bach did not want to speculate about possible penalties last week, but did emphasize that the decision of WADA would be binding on the IOC, because the Olympic movement signed the world anti-doping code.
The IOC of chairman Thomas Bach made a remarkably sharp statement following the findings of the WADA Compliance Review Committee. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Doping case started at the end of 2014
The Russian doping case began at the end of 2014, when the German television channel ARD in the controversial documentary Geheimsache Doping, whom Russia seine Sieger power concluded that Russia had developed a system that massively encouraged and helped athletes to use doping in the pursuit of international success. Several independent investigations from WADA confirmed this conclusion, and also found that the Russian state was involved in the operation from start to finish.
The international athletics federation IAAF was one of the first major sports associations to take tough measures; the Russian Athletics Association has been suspended since the end of 2015, so that only Russian athletes who can prove that they have not used doping during their career can participate in major tournaments, and then also under a neutral flag.
RUSADA also received a suspension in 2015, but it was not (yet) due to a ban on the complete Russian sport. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 282 Russians were allowed to participate under their own flag. Two years later, Russia was excluded by the IOC from the Winter Games of Pyeongchang, although 169 "doping-free" Russian athletes still participated under the neutral flag.
Six months later, WADA ended the suspension of RUSADA, but strict conditions were attached to it. One of those conditions was access to the data from the former Moscow laboratory, and that stick behind the door of the global anti-doping agency now seems to be delivering a much heavier punishment to Russia.
The WADA meeting in Lausanne starts on Monday around 10 a.m. The expectation is that the decisions will be announced from 1:30 pm and explained at a press conference.
See also: Russia calls impending doping suspension 'fight without rules'