René Fasel, President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has moved swiftly to reassure Swiss ice hockey fans that Russia will take its place at next year’s World Championships.
The Swiss told 20 Minutes, a Lausanne newspaper, that if a final decision on sanctions against Russia proposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had not been reached by the time the tournament begins in Switzerland next May, "the Russians will skate in their habitual uniforms".
Moreover, the IIHF President said, "we will hoist their flag and play their anthem after a success".
His most interesting comment came in answer to the question, "What if the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirms Monday’s decision by WADA before May 8?"
In that case, Fasel is quoted as saying, "we would find ourselves in the same situation as at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics".
Then, Russian athletes deemed eligible to participate had to do so as part of a neutral team, in response to the "systemic manipulation" of the anti-doping system at events including the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was roundly criticised for permitting them to compete under the title "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR).
The OAR ice hockey team duly won the men’s competition in South Korea, hammering the United States 4-0 en route to victory in the final over Germany.
WADA has been keen to emphasise that this time, if its proposed four-year sanctions are confirmed, authorised Russian athletes would not be allowed to participate as representatives of Russia at events covered.
Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee, the body that drew up and recommended the list of sanctions to WADA bosses, said in Lausanne yesterday: "The standard is clear: they will not be there as representatives of Russia.
"What that means in every case will need to be developed and will need to be subject to guidelines…
"What is important to note is that the standard says it is under the control and/or the approval of WADA to ensure appropriate and standardised enforcement."
As implied by the question put to Fasel, it is widely expected that the whole issue will soon be referred to CAS.
This may happen as soon as December 19, when the Supervisory Board of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, now in severe danger of once again being declared non-compliant, is expected to decide whether to appeal.
If WADA’s list of sanctions is ultimately upheld, the organisers of a number of major international sports competitions scheduled to be held between 2020 and 2024 face having to make a string of adjustments up to and including, in some cases, possibly finding a new host.
The 2020 Ice Hockey World Championships are due to be held in Lausanne and Zurich between May 8 and 24.
The host nation’s opening match is scheduled to be against Russia in Zurich’s Hallenstadion.
Fasel has already maintained that moving the sport’s 2023 World Championships away from Russia would be "impossible".
By then, Fasel will have stepped down, having reached the end of his sixth term as IIHF President in September 2020.
The Congress to elect the new President is slated to be held in Russia.