By Chidinma Uchechukwumgemezu
Sport’s highest court will on Thursday deliver its verdict on whether to overturn Russia’s four-year ban from international sport imposed following allegations of state-sanctioned doping.
The much-anticipated decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport follows a four-day arbitration hearing between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) at a secret location last month.
The showdown took place following WADA’s decision last year to declare RUSADA non-compliant after the Russian body was accused of manipulating drug testing data.
The ensuing ban meant Russia would miss the re-arranged Tokyo Olympics next year as well as football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
CAS said it will announce the decision on its website at 1500 GMT on Thursday.
The Lausanne-based body said it will “announce the decision taken in the arbitration procedure between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) on Thursday”.
Russia considers its ban to be legally indefensible. Former prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has described the suspension as “chronic anti-Russian hysteria”.
The Russian saga erupted in 2016 when Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, blew the whistle over state-backed doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Barely two weeks before the 2016 Rio Olympics in July that year, WADA called for Russia to be banned from those Games.
The IOC, however, stopped short of an outright ban and said individual federations would decide whether to allow Russian athletes to compete.
In 2017, the IOC banned the Russian Olympic Committee from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, but allowed clean Russian athletes to take part as neutral competitors.
A total of 168 Russians eventually competed.
Then, in September 2018, WADA controversially lifted its ban on RUSADA, despite not having been granted access to its doping-tainted Moscow laboratory.
Russia finally handed over lab data to WADA in January 2019.
However, in yet another twist, in September WADA gave Russia three weeks to explain “inconsistencies” in the data.
Sport’s global policeman then hit Russia with the four-year ban over the manipulated data in December last year.