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Russia's Hockey Team Might Compete At 2020 World Championship

By Vusala Abbasova November 30, 2019

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On Monday, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee recommended banning Russia from the international competition for the next four years. / Getty Images

Russian hockey players might compete as unaffiliated athletes at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Switzerland in case the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decides that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency known as RUSADA is non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

"Today, Chair of the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) Jonathan Taylor was asked the question about the possibility of the Russian national hockey team's participation in the upcoming World Cup,” Russian Anti-Doping Agency Deputy Director General Margarita Pakhnotskaya told TASS on Wednesday. “He, in turn, emphasized that no exceptions would be made for any sports."

On Monday, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee recommended banning Russia from the international competition for the next four years. The punishment, which also threatens Russia's participation at the next two Olympics, was recommended following an investigation into alleged tampering with data from a Moscow laboratory. If the WADA's executive committee (ExCo) votes in December in favor of recommendations, RUSADA will have three weeks to decide whether it will appeal its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"If the CAS decides not in favor of Russia by the beginning of the same world hockey championship, then a neutral team will come out on the ice. Moreover, it was clearly stipulated that in its name there would be no reference to the geographical affiliation, in contrast to how it was at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.” Pakhnotskaya added.

Not for the first time, Russia's sports status is in peril. RUSADA lost its license in 2015 due to the allegations of systematic doping that was discovered after Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. As a result, Russia was officially banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and Russian athletes who tested negative for substances were allowed to compete in the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but under the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia."

In September 2018, WADA decided to reinstate RUSADA in exchange for turning over its testing database and raw data from its Moscow laboratory – a move that came after the Russian Ministry of Sport sent a letter expressing the organization’s readiness to accept WADA’s conditions. However, when WADA's investigators received that data in January, they were concerned that the data had been tampered with or altered.

"The Moscow data are neither complete nor fully authentic," read the WADA statement published on Monday, saying that some of the presumptive positive findings and related evidence were removed.

If the ExCo accepts the recommendations, Russia may lose the right for formal presence as a nation or an Olympic committee not just at the 2020 IIHF World Hockey Championship but also at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The ultimate outcome of the situation will be that Russian athletes would be permitted to compete only as unaffiliated athletes.

Amongst other sanctions, the CRC proposed a four-year ban on hosting major events in Russia.

At the moment, Russia's St. Petersburg is preparing to host four games, including a quarterfinal, at the 2020 European Football Championship which is to be co-hosted in 12 different countries. Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow was also chosen to host the final match of the 2021 Champions League of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).