Russia on Friday formally contested a four-year ban from major sporting events over doping violations that President Vladimir Putin has condemned as “unjust,” the head of its RUSADA anti-doping agency said.
“In accordance with established procedure, today we have sent a package of documents to the World Anti-Doping Agency,” RUSADA director general Yury Ganus told reporters in Moscow. “The package contains a notice about disagreement with WADA sanctions.”
Ganus, who has long argued for a major crackdown by Russia against doping cheats, warned that the legal challenge could backfire, however.
The formal statement of disagreement with WADA will trigger an appeal process against the ban at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
WADA confirmed Friday in a statement it had received the RUSADA package and would promptly refer the matter to the CAS, whose decision will be final and binding for all involved.
Ganus, whose rigorous stance puts him at odds with his own government and supervisory board, argues that Moscow needs to accept the sanctions and own up to its faults in order to be able to reform.
He, however, said he was obliged to relay the position of the supervisory board.
He said he also sent a letter to WADA informing the anti-doping agency of his personal stance.
“I regret to inform you that all my attempts, including attempts to introduce changes to the RUSADA notice, have failed,” said the letter.
Ganus told AFP on Thursday that “it is practically impossible” to contest the ban.
WADA this month banned Russia for four years from major global events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data.
Under the sanctions, Russians will still be allowed to compete, but only as neutrals and if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
Putin has called the sanctions politically motivated, indicating a lengthy legal battle loomed.
He argued that the majority of Russian athletes were clean and should not be deprived of the right to compete under the Russian flag due to the actions of some individuals.
Outgoing WADA president Craig Reedie said the organization “remains convinced that it made the right decision on December 9,” when the ban was officially instituted.
“The proposed consequences are tough on the Russian authorities while robustly protecting the integrity of clean sport around the world,” he said. “We will defend that decision with the utmost vigor at CAS.”
Ganus warned that contesting the doping ban could in fact make matters worse because CAS could make sanctions against Russia more severe.
“We are creating a platform for it. We themselves are creating risks,” he said.
“First of all, it would be a public hearing,” he said, adding that some officials could request that the Court of Arbitration for Sport toughen up rather than soften the punishment against Russia.
He referred to the position of United States Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart who has called for a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.
Tygart said that allowing “neutral” Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics in 2016 and 2018 had been ineffective.
“WADA must get tougher and impose the full restriction on Russian athlete participation in the Olympics that the rules allow,” Tygart said in November.
Speaking to AFP on Thursday, Ganus said he had information that his British counterpart could also call for severe sanctions against Russia.
The suspension was handed to Russia over falsifying data from a doping testing laboratory that was handed to WADA earlier this year as part of a compliance re-instatement process.
The significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015, was revealed in an independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016.
The issue has dealt a colossal blow to the status of post-Soviet Russia as a major sports power after hosting events such as the 2013 World Athletics Championships, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.
The Sochi Games later became notorious for the number of doping violations by prominent Russian athletes.
The doping scandal has also divided Russian sports stars, with three-time world champion high jumper Mariya Lasitskene calling for sports officials to be held to account over the ban.