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Russians shocked over call for four-year sports ban over doping

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Moscow (AFP)

Russia's anti-doping chief said Tuesday he expected the country to be barred from all sporting competition for four years, after a bombshell recommendation from the World Anti-Doping Agency that shocked Russian athletes.

WADA's Compliance Review Committee recommended the ban on Monday, accusing Moscow of falsifying laboratory data handed over to investigators.

It recommended Russia also face a four-year ban from staging or bidding for major international sporting events -- potentially putting Saint Petersburg's status as a venue for the Euro 2020 football tournament in jeopardy.

The committee's recommendation is set to go before WADA's Executive Committee at a meeting in Paris on December 9.

Asked if he expected the recommendation to be upheld, RUSADA chief Yury Ganus told AFP: "That's the reality."

"We are plunging, for the next four years, into a new phase of Russia's doping crisis," Ganus said, pointing out that the ban would affect Russian athletes at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

"The most difficult and tragic thing is that our athletes have become hostages of the actions of our sports officials," he said.

The proposed sanctions are the latest chapter of a saga which began in 2015, when an independent WADA commission investigating allegations of Russian doping said it had found evidence of a vast state-sponsored system stretching back years.

Russian track and field athletes were barred from competing at the Rio Olympics in 2016 although Russians competing in other events were allowed to take part.

The ban was widened to include all events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, though Russian competitors who could prove they were above suspicion were able to compete as neutrals under the Olympic flag.

Sporting officials in Moscow said Tuesday that another ban would punish athletes who had nothing to do with historic doping claims.

"The news is simply shocking," said Varvara Barysheva, executive director of the Russian Speed Skating Union.

"It appears this has been planned in advance and they are now settling scores," Russian Boxing Federation President Umar Kremlev said. "Russia plays an important role in the development of world sports. How can such a country be banned?"

- Call for Putin act -

Mikhail Mamiashvili, who won Olympic gold in Greco-Roman wrestling in Seoul in 1988, said the recommendations stung.

"What are athletes guilty of?" Mamiashvili told AFP. "I myself was banned from the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 because of the war in Afghanistan.

"Even during horrible purges under Stalin there was a rule: a son should not be held responsible for the actions of his father."

Others said Russians had no one to blame but themselves.

In a hard-hitting editorial, the chief editor of a leading Russian sports daily compared Russia to a "violent" patient whose disease "had reached a critical stage".

"We've been tied up because traditional treatment has not helped," Nikolai Yaremenko of Sovetsky Sport wrote.

The recommendation came after WADA investigators examined data handed over in January from Russia's doping-tainted Moscow laboratory.

Full disclosure of the data was a key condition of Russia's controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.

But WADA said in its statement on Monday that the data handed over was "neither complete nor fully authentic".

Ganus said Russia urgently needed new sports management and called on President Vladimir Putin to intervene.

"Honestly, I am waiting for the president to take an active part in this," Ganus said.

"We need to push through real changes," he added. "We need new sports leaders."

The ban would be a huge blow to the Kremlin chief who has staked Russia's prestige -- and his own reputation -- on sporting achievements.

Russia pulled out all the stops to host the football World Cup in 2018, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, and the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

If the sanctions are approved by WADA's Executive Committee, Russia can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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