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World Anti-Doping Agency Bans Russia From Global Sports For Next 4 Years

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The next Olympics are this summer in Tokyo. Russia will not be there. This morning, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from global sports for the next four years. This is punishment for that country's systemic and widespread athlete doping program. We've got NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman with us to talk about this decision. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: What more can you tell us about how the Anti-Doping Agency came to this decision?

GOLDMAN: Well, I will tell you that 12 members of the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA - we're going to say WADA from now on, 'cause the other is a mouthful - 12 members of the WADA Executive Committee unanimously agreed to these sanctions that the WADA president, Craig Reedie, described as a robust response to the latest Russian infractions.

And if these sanctions stand up to appeal, Russia will be banned for four years from competing and hosting - competing in and hosting prominent global sporting competitions, including Olympics, World Cup, World Championships, Paralympics, Youth Olympic Games. Now, Craig Reedie said the WADA Executive Committee has responded in the strongest possible terms. And this is, in fact, the toughest punishment handed down in this doping scandal, which has been rolling along for about five years.

MARTIN: So what does this mean for Russian athletes who have - I mean, I just have to imagine for many of them, this is a lifelong dream to compete in these next upcoming Olympics.

GOLDMAN: Well, if they have any connection to doping, this means they're out. But, you know, this also means that, you know, when we say that Russia's being banned, not exactly the case because Russian athletes that have no role in this scandal, who are deemed clean, will be able to compete under these sanctions that were approved today. And this is what's happened in the past two Olympics.

Remember, there was a contingent like this at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in 2016 and at last year's Winter Olympics in South Korea in Pyeongchang, 168 Russians competed. And they were supposed to be neutral, although it said on the front of their uniforms, Olympic athletes from Russia.

MARTIN: Oh, it did say Russia...

GOLDMAN: Yeah, not so...

MARTIN: ...Even though they're not competing under the Russian flag.

GOLDMAN: Right. Not so neutral, right? So the Russian flag and anthem were banned. And if you remember, after the men won - the Russian men won the Olympic hockey competition, they and their Russian fans in the stands drowned out the Olympic anthem with the banned Russian anthem. It was a here's-what-we-think-of-your-ban moment.

So - and, Rachel, I should add that critics say that this exemplifies Russian attitude - that the country has never admitted the widespread doping system and that the only way to achieve real culture change when it comes to doping to deter Russia is to have a complete ban on Russian athletes, including the innocent ones. That's a tough one. WADA and the International Olympic Committee won't go for that, and WADA did not today, in fact.

MARTIN: Right. So what does happen next? You mentioned an appeal?

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Russia has 21 days to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It's expected that will happen. As I mentioned, officials in Russia continue to deny wrongdoing and, you know - so it's expected they will appeal. And they may win.

MARTIN: All right. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman on this recent decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency to ban Russia from all global sports for the next four years. Tom, thanks. We appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.