Russia are facing a potential four-year sanction following the recommendation of the WADA Com©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Compliance Review Committee (CRC) has recommended a four-year sanction against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which could force athletes to compete neutrally with the country's flag set to be banned from international events.

The recommendation follows "an extremely serious case of non-compliance with the requirement to provide an authentic copy of the Moscow data, with several aggravating features", according to the WADA CRC.

The sanctions would cover both the 2020 and 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing, should they come into force.

"Russian athletes and their support personnel may only participate in major events staged in the four-year period where they are able to demonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance," the WADA CRC recommendation states.

This would include the athletes not being mentioned in "incriminating circumstances in the McLaren reports, there are no positive findings reported for them in the database, and no data relating to their samples has been manipulated".

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach suggested in an interview last week they would be against a blanket suspension on Russian athletes from Tokyo 2020.

The IOC delegated responsibility to International Federations to determine which athletes could compete at Rio 2016, although the International Paralympic Committee barred Russia from the Paralympic Games. 

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) were suspended from Pyeongchang 2018, with approved athletes competing as part of the Olympic Athletes from Russia delegation.

Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the Paralympic Games.

Russia had to compete under the Olympic flag at Pyeongchang 2018 and will have to do the same at Tokyo 2020 if the recommendations of the WADA Compliance Review Committee are accepted ©Getty Images
Russia had to compete under the Olympic flag at Pyeongchang 2018 and will have to do the same at Tokyo 2020 if the recommendations of the WADA Compliance Review Committee are accepted ©Getty Images

The proposed sanction may see sporting events awarded to Russia stripped from the country during the four-year period.

This potentially could include matches at the UEFA European Championships, where Saint Petersburg is set to host three group matches and a quarter-final tie.

Sporting bodies would be prohibited from awarding Russia events, while the country would be prohibited from bidding for the 2032 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This would be regardless of whether the bidding process takes place within the proposed four-year window RUSADA would be sanctioned for.

Russian Government officials and representatives would also be banned from attending major sporting events, as well as key officials from the Russian Olympic Committee or the Russian Paralympic Committee.

This would apply to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as both the Summer and Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Any other event organised by a major event organisation and any World Championships organised or sanctioned by any WADA signatory also constitute major events.

The CRC recommendation was sent to WADA last week, with the organisation's Executive Committee due to consider the proposal at its meeting in Paris on December 9.

Russia will be pinning its hopes on the fact that half of the WADA Executive Committee comprises members from the IOC and other officials from the sports movement.

They, like Bach, have previously been against a blanket suspension from the Olympic Games. 

RUSADA would almost certainly appeal any sanction from WADA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which will have the final say.

The recommendation of the WADA CRC follows the responses the WADA CRC received from Russia following allegations the country manipulated data from the Moscow Laboratory.

WADA had demanded the Russian Sports Ministry and RUSADA explain "inconsistencies" it found in the data when it opened a compliance procedure against the body, first suspended in 2015 before being reinstated last year, in September.

Russia was ordered to address the differences between the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) database provided by a whistleblower in October 2017 and the version WADA extracted from the facility in January.

The data is being used to prosecute athletes involved in the state-sponsored doping scandal which tainted the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi and other major events.

Nearly 50 cases have been built against Russian athletes, WADA said in September.

WADA's CRC determined significant changes were made to LIMS data in December 2018 and January 2019 ©Getty Images
WADA's CRC determined significant changes were made to LIMS data in December 2018 and January 2019 ©Getty Images

"The Moscow data are neither complete nor fully authentic," the WADA CRC determined, following reports from experts and the Intelligence and Investigations team.

"In particular, while the 2019 copy of the LIMS database matches in many respects the 2015 copy of the LIMS database provided to WADA by a whistleblower in 2017, hundreds of presumptive adverse analytical findings that appear in the 2015 copy of the LIMS database have been removed from the 2019 copy, and the related underlying raw data and PDF files have been deleted or altered.

"Some of the presumptive positive findings and related evidence were removed in 2016 or 2017, after the general scheme to cover up the doping of Russian athletes was first revealed by Dr [Grigory] Rodchenkov and then quickly confirmed by Prof. Richard McLaren's investigation.

"However, further significant deletions and/or alterations were made in December 2018 and January 2019 (i.e., after the WADA ExCo imposed the data requirement).

"These activities were concealed by back-dating of computer systems and data files in an attempt to make it appear that the Moscow data had been in their current state since 2015.

"Furthermore, the commands issued to execute the manipulations, deletions and back-dating were also deleted, in an attempt to avoid detection of what had been done."

The WADA CRC also determined that after November 25 last year, someone in the Moscow Laboratory "planted fabricated evidence into the LIMS database (purported messages between laboratory staff members) to support the argument now being advanced by the Russian authorities that it was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and two co-conspirators who falsified entries in the Moscow LIMS database as part of a scheme to extort money from athletes."

They were also accused of deleting "important evidence proving that another laboratory staff member was involved in the cover-up of doping by Russian athletes in 2014 and 2015. 

"That staff member is currently an important witness for the Russian side in several cases, in which he denies there was any conspiracy to protect Russian athletes from exposure for doping, and calls Dr. Rodchenkov a liar," The WADA CRC report said.