With Russian President Vladimir Putin calling the punishment “unjust” and “illegal,” officials in his country confirmed Thursday that they will appeal a four-year ban handed down by anti-doping authorities.
The World Anti-Doping Agency leveled the sanctions earlier this month, making Russia ineligible to participate as a nation at the Olympics and other major competitions. It marked the latest development in a long-running scandal that has seen athletes, coaches and officials from the country caught in an orchestrated doping scheme.
Though individual Russian athletes may still compete as “neutrals” if they can prove their innocence, Putin lashed out at banishing the Russian name, flag and anthem from international sporting events.
“There has never been anything of this kind in any of the world’s legal systems or in human history,” he said during his annual news conference. “And I hope nothing of this kind ever happens again.”
The supervisory board of Russia’s national anti-doping agency voted its disagreement with the WADA decision at a Thursday meeting, signaling it will exercise the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
“If someone was caught doing something illegal, sanctions are natural and fair,” Putin said. “But if an overwhelming majority of Russian athletes are clean, how can they be sanctioned for someone else’s actions?”
With the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo drawing near, others in the Olympic movement had called for a blanket ban on all Russians.
“It’s no surprise Russia has appealed even the light consequences imposed on its proven state-sponsored doping system and cover-up,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, adding that “they have failed to ever take responsibility for these sporting crimes.”
Russia’s appeal remains subject to approval by other national officials, considered a formality at this point. The appeal must be filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Dec. 30.