WADA imposes four-year ban on Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency has imposed a four-year ban on Russia using its flag, anthem and team names at Olympic and other major sports events.

The ban means Russia will be unable to formally compete in next summer's Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Other major events that fall during the four-year period include world championships and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

WADA's executive committee voted in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday and concluded that officials in a Moscow anti-doping laboratory had tampered with data.

The tampering -- before and while the data was being forensically copied by WADA -- included planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats. System messages were also fabricated in an effort to hamper the work of WADA investigators.

The executive committee's decision to punish Russia with a ban was unanimous, an agency spokesperson said. The punishment, however, leaves the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem, as was the case during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

When asked for clarification on Russia's participation in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and the tournament itself, a FIFA spokesperson told ESPN: "FIFA has taken note of the decision taken by WADA's Executive Committee today. FIFA is in contact with WADA and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football."

ESPN also reached out to the International Olympic Committee, which responded that it supports WADA's decision.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency has 21 days to appeal the sanctions, and if it does so, the case will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, WADA has said.

"The position of Russia's Olympic Committee remains unchanged -- sanctions are inadequate, illogical and excessive," Russia's Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in response to the sanctions.

"Of course, we are disappointed, but we initially assumed that the recommendations of the WADA Executive Committee would be approved without change, especially after the main points were made public."

Russia, which has tried to showcase itself as a global sports power, has been embroiled in doping scandals, notably since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.

Its doping woes have grown since, with many of its athletes banned from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year's Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Monday's sanctions had been recommended by WADA's compliance review committee in response to the doctored laboratory data provided by Moscow earlier this year.

One of the conditions for the reinstatement of RUSADA, which was suspended in 2015 in the wake of the athletics doping scandal but was reinstated last year, had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data.

Sports minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the lab data to technical issues and on Monday told reporters that "everything possible was done to resolve this situation."

The consequences of WADA's ruling dictate that no Russian government representatives may participate in or attend any Olympic or other sports event put on by a major event organisation over the four-year period. As such, Russian president Vladimir Putin will not be able to attend the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, nor the 2022 World Cup -- should the ban affect that tournament.

Additionally, Russia may not host any major event in the four-year period, and where the right to host such an event has already been awarded to Russia, that right must be withdrawn and re-assigned to another country as far as is legally or practically possible.

The 2020 European Championship football tournament, in which Russia's Saint Petersburg Stadium is set to host several games, is not considered a major event by WADA, therefore Russian participation and hosting will not be affected.

As part of Monday's ruling, Russia also is not permitted to bid for the right to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, irrespective of whether the bidding takes place during or after the four-year period.

Some Russian officials have branded the call for sanctions unfair and likened it to broader Western attempts to hold back the country.

But WADA president Craig Reedie said: "The ExCo's strong decision today shows WADA's determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis.

"For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA's reinstatement conditions ... demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today.

"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.

"As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts."

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.