Russia braces for four-year Olympic ban over doping scandal
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia could be hit with a four-year Olympic ban on Monday for flouting anti-doping rules, a punishment local officials have said would be unfair and part of a malicious Western attempt to destroy sport in the country. Russia, which has tried to showcase itself as a global sports power, has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics. Its doping woes have snowballed since, with many of its athletes sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games. Russian sport could enter four more years of gloom on Monday when WADA’s executive committee convenes in Lausanne to rule on whether to ban the country from hosting major sporting events and to force its clean athletes to compete without their flag or anthem for four years. WADA has accused Moscow of tampering with laboratory data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats. Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the laboratory data to technical issues. Other senior officials have likened the proposed punishment to broader attempts by Western countries to hold Russia back. “The more these types of decisions are made, the better it is... for their anti-Russian argument,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained last week.