Their athletes will compete as ROC, the Russian Olympic Committee, with the nation’s name, flag and anthem all banned as a result of doping offences.
Those who can prove that they are untainted by the scandal which rocked the sporting world to its very core are able to take part under a neutral flag.
Russian athletes will compete in Tokyo as ROC, the Russian Olympic Committee, this summer
Russia’s name, flag (above) and anthem have been all banned as a result of doping offences
Yet more controversy was stirred recently after the decision which eventually reduced the suspension, followed by the unveiling of the red, white and blue kit.
An initial punishment lasting for four years was imposed on Russia last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which saw them barred from events including the Tokyo Games and Paralympics as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The ban was then reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a move which was greeted with a fierce backlash.
It was unanimously found by CAS that Russia had not been in compliance with anti-doping rules and regulations.
A four-year suspension was imposed on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency last year
The panel said it ‘considered matters of proportionality and, in particular, the need to effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport.’
The ruling means that the phrase ‘neutral athlete’ must be displayed prominently on uniforms where the word ‘Russia’ also appears. The period of the ban will end in December 2022.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian prime minister, had insisted that the suspension came about as part of ‘chronic anti-Russian hysteria’.
‘It is obvious that significant doping problems still exist in Russia, I mean our sporting community,’ Medvedev said. ‘This is impossible to deny.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport then reduced the suspension down to two years, however
Ex-Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev insisted the ban was due to ‘anti-Russian hysteria’
‘But on the other hand, the fact that all these decisions are repeated, often affecting athletes who have already been punished in one way or another… of course this makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.’
Russia has been banned from competing as a country in athletics since 2015. They were initially declared non-compliant in November of that year after widespread corruption was alleged.
A report, which was commissioned by WADA and carried out by lawyer Professor Richard McLaren, pointed towards state-sponsored doping in track and field athletics.
Further findings from another report in 2016 stated that the doping programme was operated across a four-year period, stretching across the ‘vast majority’ of sports at the summer and winter Olympics.
But, in 2018, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was reinstated as being compliant after the agency said they would release information from a Moscow-based laboratory taken from between January 2012 and August 2015.
Russia has been banned from athletics since 2015 and were also declared as non-compliant
It was discovered, however, that positive findings featuring in a version of the data previously provided by a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the 2019 version of the files. Unsurprisingly, this triggered the beginning of a fresh inquiry.
An in-depth review was then carried out into the glaring inconsistencies and WADA’s executive committee unanimously decided to hit Russia with the ban.
After the decision was made, former WADA president Sir Craig Reedie highlighted the ‘determination to act resolutely’.
‘For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,’ Reedie said. ‘The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions demanded a robust response. This is exactly what has been delivered.
‘Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.’
Report findings revealed a state-sponsored doping programme lasted for four years in Russia
Despite this, the suspension was deemed ‘not enough’ in some quarters.
‘I wanted sanctions that cannot be watered down,’ former WADA vice-president Linda Helleland said. ‘We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.’
Russia’s ban was imposed following the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were held in Sochi. There, athletes from the host nation won 33 medals, including 13 golds.
There were hundreds of Russian athletes who also took part at the 2016 Games in Rio, where the country clinched 56 medals in total.
Following that, 168 athletes from Russia competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea under a neutral flag.
Russia’s Vic Wild (left) and Alena Zavarina (right) are seen at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
168 athletes from Russia competed at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea under a neutral flag (Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and Anastasia Bryzgalova – pictured – gave their medals back)
The wide-ranging suspension imposed also means that Russia cannot host, or bid for, any major events for a period.
This would have included the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but the shortening of the ban renders Russia able to be granted the right to host provided their bid process begins from the start of 2023 or later.
Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former anti-doping official in Russia who fled after his allegations about the state-sponsored doping programme, still believes that there is ‘more to do’ around the issue.
In a statement released following the ban, Rodchenkov said: ‘Finally, fraud, lies and falsifications of unspeakable proportions have been punished in full swing.
‘Those involved in the corruption of certain sports such as track and field, weightlifting, skiing, biathlon and bobsled should be punished retroactively.’
Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov believes there is still ‘more to do’ around Russian doping
Russia’s ban was imposed following the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi (pictured above)
He went on to add: ‘There is a whole generation of clean athletes who have painfully abandoned their dreams and lost awards because of Russian cheaters. We need to take the strongest action to bring justice back to sport.’
After the brazen unveiling of their uniform of choice this year, fresh fury has been directed at Russia.
ROC president Stanislav Pozdnyakov admitted the national flag is visible ‘really, really obviously’, saying: ‘You don’t really need to have a strong imagination.’
There is a belief that the kits make a mockery of the initial ban imposed by WADA – although CAS’ watering down has allowed for the colours of the country to be used.
The International Olympic Committee have emphasised that the designs ‘are in line with the established and published implementation guidelines.’ They explained that they were approved ‘on this basis’.
ROC president Stanislav Pozdnyakov (left) admitted the national flag is visible on Russia’s kits
The attire for Russian athletes in Tokyo has stirred more controversy due to its unveiled design
ZASPORT, the Russian Olympic team’s kit supplier, revealed the attire for the very first time in April.
Polo shirts and jackets will be sported along with a white top, while there are large portions of blue and red emblazoned across the torso.
An accusation has been made that the kits look very similar to those worn by Russian athletes at events in the past.
Russia have acknowledged issues in its implementation of anti-doping policies but denies running a state-sponsored doping programme.