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Russia reacts with anger after doping ban from Olympics, World Cup

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The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over manipulated doping data, prompting an angry response from President Vladimir Putin.

WADA’s executive committee, meeting in Lausanne, handed Russia the “robust” four-year suspension after accusing Moscow of falsifying data from a doping testing laboratory that was handed over to investigators earlier this year.

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The toughest ever sanctions imposed on Russian state authorities will see government officials barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host or bid for tournaments.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.”

Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but only as neutrals and if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.

Russia will still be allowed to compete in qualifiers for the 2022 football World Cup, but WADA director general Olivier Niggli added that should they progress to the finals in Qatar, “the team there will not be representing the Russian federation”.

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AFP / John SAEKI Russia’s 4-year sports ban

Russia’s participation in Euro 2020 — and Saint Petersburg’s hosting of four matches — is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a “major event” for anti-doping purposes.

Speaking in Paris, Putin slammed the decision as a “politically motivated” ruling that “contradicted” the Olympic Charter.

“There is nothing to reproach the Russian Olympic Committee for and if there is no reproach towards this committee, the country should take part in competitions under its own flag,” Putin said.

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also said the ban was politically motivated. “This is the continuation of this anti-Russian hysteria that has already become chronic,” Medvedev told domestic news agencies.

– ‘A tragedy’ –

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The significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015, was revealed in the independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016.

It led to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) being suspended for nearly three years previously over revelations of a vast state-supported doping programme.

Full disclosure of data from the Moscow laboratory was a key condition of Russia’s controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.

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RUSADA’s supervisory board is set to meet on December 19 to take a decision on whether to appeal against the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Yury Ganus, the head of RUSADA, told AFP Monday that his country had “no chance” of winning an appeal.

“There is no chance of winning this case in court,” Ganus said.

“This is a tragedy,” he added. “Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited.”

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AFP / Alexander NEMENOV Russia’s anti-doping chief Yury Ganus said the four-year ban was a “tragedy” for clean athletes

Documents released Monday show WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) believes “deletions and alterations” to Russia’s doping data “materially prejudiced the ability to pursue cases against 145 of the 298 athletes” whose doping controls between 2011 and 2015 WADA thought to be suspicious.

About one third of the 145 athletes are still active, WADA chief of investigators Gunter Younger said Monday.

The WADA decision was widely predicted, with Reedie having made a presentation Saturday to the Olympic Summit, participants of which “strongly condemned those responsible for the manipulation of the data from the Moscow laboratory”.

AFP/File / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV Russian flags will not fly over the next two Olympic Games

“It was agreed that this was an attack on sport and that these actions should lead to the toughest sanctions against those responsible,” the IOC said, asking that the Russian authorities deliver the “fully authenticated raw data”.

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Positive doping tests contained in data leaked by a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the laboratory data supplied in January 2019, which prompted a new inquiry.


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Five things to watch for at the Grammys

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Music's glitterati will sparkle on the red carpet at this Sunday's Grammy awards, which honors the top hits and artists of the year.

Scandal at the Recording Academy, which puts on the show, has overwhelmed the lead-up to the glam event, but there are still plenty of musical moments to watch for.

Here is our quick guide to the event, which will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles:

- Women poised to lead -

Women dominated at last year's gala and are leading the pack this year as well, with the twerking flautist Lizzo and the teenage goth-pop phenomenon Billie Eilish expected to battle for the top awards.

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Mexican children take up arms in fight against drug gangs

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With baseball caps and scarves covering their faces, only their serious eyes are visible as a dozen children stand to attention, rifles by their side.

In the heart of the violence-plagued Mexican state of Guerrero, learning to use weapons starts at an early age.

In the village of Ayahualtempa, at the foot of a wooded hill, the basketball court serves as a training ground for these youths, aged between five and 15.

The children practice with rifles and handguns or makeshift weapons in various drill positions for a few hours every week.

"Position three!" yells instructor Bernardino Sanchez, a member of the militia responsible for the security of 16 villages in the Guerrero area, which goes by the name of Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC-PF).

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Delta fined $50,000 for discriminating against Muslim passengers

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Delta Air Lines was Friday fined $50,000 by the US Department of Transportation to settle allegations it discriminated against three Muslim passengers who were ordered off their planes.

In its consent order, the department said it found Delta "engaged in discriminatory conduct" and violated anti-discrimination laws when it removed the three passengers.

In one incident on July 26, 2016, a Muslim couple were removed from Delta Flight 229 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after a passenger told a flight attendant their behavior made her "very uncomfortable and nervous".

"Mrs X" was wearing a head scarf and the passenger said "Mr X" had inserted something into his watch.

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