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Russia was banned today from the next two Olympic Games. The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, made that decision because of the country's ongoing athlete doping. And WADA approved a set of sanctions banning Russia from global sporting events for four years. NPR's Tom Goldman reports the debate has begun about whether the sanctions are enough.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Several thorough and independent reports, in conjunction with whistleblower accounts, established a few years back that Russia had been involved in widespread state-sponsored sports doping. WADA president Craig Reedie says today's sanctions happened because the cheating didn't stop.
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CRAIG REEDIE: Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order, but it chose, instead, a different route.
GOLDMAN: In September, WADA revealed Russian anti-doping officials manipulated drug testing data they turned over as a condition for Russia's reinstatement to international sport. Today, WADA's executive committee voted unanimously to punish Russia, offering what Reedie calls a robust response.
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REEDIE: The decision is designed to punish the guilty parties and send a message that it will not be tolerated.
GOLDMAN: These toughest-to-date sanctions covering a four-year period include banning Russian government officials from serving on any sports federation or Olympic Committee boards. Russia can't host or bid to host any international sporting events. And then, of course, there's the headline punishment, a ban on competing at major events like next summer's Olympics in Tokyo.
Ban, in this case, is a relative term, as it was in the past two Olympic Games. Russian athletes not associated with doping and who've passed rigorous testing can compete.
ROB KOEHLER: It's smoke and mirrors again.
GOLDMAN: That's Rob Koehler. He heads Global Athlete, an international athlete rights organization. And he speaks for the critics condemning today's WADA announcement. Koehler says even though the clean Russian athletes will again be classified as neutral and the events will be scrubbed of Russian officialdom, Russian flags and the anthem, the country still is in the game.
KOEHLER: You'll see in the coming months that Russians will be preparing for international events for the Olympic Games and will be competing strong. And they will be winning medals and going back and celebrating them in Russia as if nothing ever happened. And that's the issue.
GOLDMAN: If it is business as usual, Koehler says, Russia will never stop cheating and clean non-Russian athletes will always wonder about their Russian competitors, which is why Koehler and other critics are disappointed WADA didn't impose a blanket ban - all Russian athletes, even the innocent, out.
JONATHAN TAYLOR: It was an option to do that. It was an option that the CRC discussed and decided against.
GOLDMAN: Jonathan Taylor chairs the CRC, Compliance Review Committee, that proposed the sanctions approved today. Taylor says the committee was swayed by the belief that the current generation of Russian athletes wasn't involved in the doping of several years ago or the recent data manipulation. Taylor says the sanctions are meaningful, but will they be an effective deterrent?
TAYLOR: I hope the consequence is they will go far enough to make the Russian government say, we have to stop this from happening. But that's the judgment we made today, and we'll have to stand by it.
GOLDMAN: Russia is not standing by. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on state TV it's obvious Russia still has significant problems with doping. But on the other hand, he suggested today's sanctions are a continuation of anti-Russian hysteria. Medvedev says Russia should appeal the WADA decision. The country has 21 days to do so.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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