World Anti-Doping Agency wants public hearing in sport's highest court for Russia sanctions


The World Anti-Doping Agency is seeking judgment from sport's highest court over a four-year slate of punishments Russia faces for cheating to be done in a rare public hearing, according to the Associated Press. The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced on Tuesday that it would ask officials from Russia's anti-doping agency, RUSADA, for their consent on the matter -- a requirement before the CAS allows media in and for the proceedings to be streamed live.

RUSADA formally announced a legal challenge to a December WADA ruling that declared the country would be considered "non-compliant" for a period of four years. Among the most notable consequences is that Russia would not be allowed to compete in any major world sporting events like the Olympics or world championships -- this would include a ban on Russia's team name, flag and anthem. Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly urged the legal challenge.

This ruling came in the wake of the country handing over the Moscow lab's doping data archive in January 2019 to WADA. The move was supposed to clear Russia's name -- it was given in exchange for lifting the anti-doping watchdog's sanctions in September 2018 -- but instead created a new wave of tampering and coverup allegations. Investigators found evidence that signs of failed drug tests were edited out of the data weeks before it was handed over, and revealed plans to smear former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, who entered a United States witness protection program after leaving Russia and becoming a key WADA witness.

"It is WADA's view -- and that of many of our stakeholders -- that this dispute at CAS should be held in a public forum to ensure that everybody understands the process and hears the arguments," the Montreal-based agency's director general, Olivier Niggli, said in a statement to the AP.

Russia defended its data, stating that any edits found were a result of illicit tampering from abroad, or the lab software being unstable.

To give an idea of how rare these public hearings are, a public hearing that took place in November -- over whether China's three-time Olympic gold medalist, Sun Yang, would be banned for alleged doping violations -- was the CAS' first in 20 years. 

A verdict for this whole process is expected to come down in May, two months before the 2020 Olympics begin in Tokyo.

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