Russia claims victory with loopholes in Olympic sanctions

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President of the Russian Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyakov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. The Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed Russia's flag and anthem are barred from next year's Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian sports officials were in an upbeat mood Thursday after finding crucial loopholes in the decision to ban the country from using its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, which halved a proposed four-year ban to two, left Russia in full control of its roster and scrapped a plan to exclude athletes suspected of benefiting from past doping cover-ups.

Russian teams won’t officially be called Russian teams at next year’s Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, but “Russia” will be printed on their red, white and blue uniforms.

“It is a victory for Russia,” Russian anti-doping agency acting CEO Mikhail Bukhanov said. “The international sports arbitration did not restrict clean athletes' rights to take part in Olympic and Paralympic Games and world championships.”

WADA wanted Russian athletes to show they didn’t benefit from cover-ups at the Moscow laboratory before they were cleared to compete at the Olympics, Paralympics and world championship events. Russia argued this amounted to collective punishment and Bukhanov likened it to banning everyone from the roads because of one drunk driver.

The most important part of the ruling, according to Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov, was the lack of any “extra criteria” for eligibility.

“Clean Russian athletes can take part in the Olympics without any restrictions and do that on a team formed by the national Olympic committee,” Pozdnyakov said.

The new restrictions on Russia will be weaker than before. In Tokyo and Beijing, Russia will be able to field athletes whose files in the Moscow doping lab database were altered or deleted while the data was under the control of the Russian state. Those manipulated files — which Russian authorities deny responsibility for — made it much harder to pursue suspected doping cases.