UCI 'closely following' WADA ban on Russia

Laura Weislo
 Russia struggled in the pursuit qualifying
Russia struggled in the pursuit qualifying

After the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee approved plans to institute a four-year global ban on Russia, the UCI has told Cyclingnews it is "closely following" the case. Russia could appeal the sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has taken note of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA's) decision to exclude Russia form the international sporting movement for a period of four years. As a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, the UCI is closely following the proceedings for non-compliance and will implement this decision for the sport of cycling once it is final," a UCI spokesperson said.

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Any Russian cyclists would be prevented from competing for their national team in the Olympic Games and 'major events', which the UCI specified includes the various World Championships, but could be allowed to compete under a neutral flag under the WADA decision.

"Russian cyclists who want to participate in the Games and the UCI World Championships will need to prove their integrity on an individual basis," the UCI said. "For this, the UCI will set up a case-by-case eligibility procedure. Our Federation is closely following developments linked to this decision."

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CAS appeal

Meanwhile, the AFP reported that the head of RUSADA says it is unlikely that the CAS would overturn the ban, which comes as a result of the country violating the terms of its reinstatement by tampering with data it was required to provide from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

"There is no chance of winning this case in court," RUSADA head Yury Ganu told the AFP. "This is a tragedy. Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited."

The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the AFP it was "impossible to deny" that doping had taken place, but that those involved were already punished. Of the new sanction, Medvedev said, "This is the continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria that has already become chronic."

Russia's Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov called the decision political and supported appealing to the CAS.

"I believe it would be right to turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport," Kolobkov said, adding that he thought the chances of overturning the ban were "quite good".

An appeal to CAS could be a delay tactic that could prevent the ban from taking effect until after the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Burden on athletes

Should the ban go into effect, the burden will fall upon the athletes to prove they were not involved in the doping scheme in order to be allowed to compete.

WADA's forensic analysts were able to obtain the names of athletes suspected of doping from the Moscow laboratory information management system (LIMS) data from 2012-2015 despite the tampering, including 145 athletes on its most suspicious list, according to InsidetheGames.biz.

G√ľnter Younger, WADA's intelligence and investigations director, said about one-third of these athletes were still active in competition.

Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA's Compliance Review Committee said athletes would have to prove they were not involved in the scheme in order to compete.

"If an athlete from Russia can prove that they were not involved in the institutionalised doping programme, that their data were not part of the manipulation, that they were subject to adequate testing prior to the event in question, and that they fulfil any other strict conditions to be determined, they will be allowed to compete," Taylor said.

"While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC, which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished."

First test of ban

If Russia chooses not to appeal the sanction, the first test for cycling could be as soon as the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in early February. Russia has one active athlete in the sport, Daria Fomina, who could race in the U23 women's category.

More likely the Russian track athletes will be obliged to prove their innocence before the UCI Track World Championships start in Berlin on February 26.

Russia's sprinters are ranked fifth and sixth in the men's team sprint and individual sprint, respectively, and third in the women's individual sprint, women's keirin and first in the women's team sprint.

Daria Shmeleva is the reigning world champion in the 500m time trial, and world champion with her team sprint partner Anastasiia Voinova. The pair won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

The Russian endurance team took a hit in 2016 when three of the individual pursuiters, Dmitry Sokolov, Kirill Sveshnikov and Dmitry Strakhov, were excluded from the Olympic Games for being named in the McLaren report on Russian doping.

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