Russia relieved after Olympic doping ban shortened

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The Kremlin said on Friday it regretted Russia was unable to avoid doping sanctions but some officials declared a small victory after sport’s highest court halved a ban on athletes competing at the Olympics under the Russian flag to two years.

The decision, announced by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday, softened sanctions issued by global anti-doping authorities in response to Moscow intentionally providing it with doctored laboratory data that could have identified drug cheats, something it denies.

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The Kremlin said it was good that the ruling, which some foreign sports officials have said was not tough enough given Russia’s doping offenses, allows some Russian athletes to compete at the world’s most prestigious sporting events.

CAS said the decision means Russians who are not suspended have a chance to compete in the Olympics and world championships as neutrals – without the Russian flag on their uniform and without the country’s anthem sung at official venues.

“Of course we regret this (overall ruling), we view it negatively,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “But at the same time, the main thing is that athletes are getting the right to take part in competitions” as neutral competitors.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said the measures were “the strongest set of consequences ever imposed on any country for doping-related offenses.”

Russian officials, despite their disappointment at more sanctions, focused on the fact that the decision was not worse.

“The outcome today is a victory for Russia,” Mikhail Bukhanov, acting director of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, said on Thursday.

“CAS did not restrict clean athletes’ right to compete at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as at world championships.”

Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said it was “positive” that the sanctions would only last until December 2022, instead of four years.

The ruling leaves Russian athletes without their flag and national anthem at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and at the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.

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