Explained: Russia's World Cup ban & why they haven't been kicked out of Euro 2020

The ban was issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after the Russian doping scandal

Russia’s national football team have been banned from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a decision from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The 2018 World Cup hosts, who reached the quarter-finals on home soil, will nevertheless still compete at the 2020 European Championships.

Russia have been handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events , rather than the ban being specifically for the national football team.

The Russian flag and anthem will therefore not be represented at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, or the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

A statement from FIFA confirmed: “FIFA is in contact with WADA to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football.”

Goal  explains why the ban has been enforced, questions around Russia’s participation at Euro 2020, and whether any footballers were implicated in the Russian doping scandal.

Why have Russia been banned from World Cup 2022?

The four-year ban has been enforced after the long-running doping scandal surrounding Russian sport.

Russia’s national anti-doping agency (RUSADA) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data given to investigators in January 2019.

That data had to be handed over as a condition of Rusada’s reinstatement in 2018. The agency had previously been suspended for three years after the state-sponsored Russian doping scandal broke, and its reinstatement was a cause of widespread controversy.

WADA announced the decision on November 9, with RUSADA having 21 days to appeal the ban. If an appeal is made, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Vladimir Drachev, the head of Russia’s biathlon federation, stated that the decision was “extremely wrong and biased” on Russian state television.

“Much has been done in Russian sport recently, athletes have undergone tests for doping, all the cases [of doping] in Russia are part of the past,” he said.

As the draw for the European section of the 2022 World Cup qualifying groups has not yet been made, other countries will not be affected if the ban is upheld.

Athletes who can prove they have not been involved in the doping scandal will be permitted to compete under a neutral flag, but such an option is not applicable to major international football tournaments.

The ban will also apply to the Women’s World Cup in 2023. Russia failed to qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, having finished behind England and Wales in their qualifying group.

Will Russia be kicked out of Euro 2020?

Despite the ban, Russia will still compete at both the 2020 European Championships and the 2021 Women’s European Championships .

Both tournaments are organised by UEFA, which is not defined as a ‘major event organisation’ with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

Russia qualified for Euro 2020 by claiming second place in Group I.  They finished six points behind group winners Belgium, who won all ten of their qualifying games .

Russia won all of their other games against Scotland, Cyprus and Kazakhstan, scoring 33 goals in their 10 games.

They have been drawn in Group B for the European finals , alongside Belgium, Denmark and Finland. 

St Petersburg is one of the 12 host cities for the finals with Russia playing their first two games, against Belgium and Finland, on home soil.

Russia’s women’s team did qualify for the most recent European Championship in 2017, but were knocked out at the group stage. They finished below Germany and Sweden and above Italy in Group B.

Have any Russian footballers been caught doping?

Russia performed well above expectations at the 2018 World Cup, entering as the lowest-ranked team in the competition but reaching the quarter-final stage after beating Spain on penalties in the first knock-out round. They were then beaten by eventual finalists Croatia.

Ahead of the tournament, an investigation into the Russia team was closed by FIFA after insufficient evidence of doping among Russian international footballers was found. WADA supported the decision.

Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, later claimed he recognised one member of the Russian World Cup squad from his own doping programme.

Krasnodar defender Ruslan Kambolov, who withdrew from the World Cup squad due to injury, was accused of doping violations but FIFA’s investigation into him was closed after insufficient evidence was found.

Russia’s star player in 2018 was then-Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev , who finished the tournament as joint-second top goalscorer with four goals.

He was subject to an investigation by the Spanish anti-doping agency (AEPSAD) after the tournament after his father Dmitri said Cheryshev had taken an injection containing a “growth hormone” to treat an injury.

The investigation was closed in September 2018, after “no signs of irregular conduct were found”.

An investigative report in the  Mail on Sunday  claimed that a list of 34 footballers whose doping test results were covered up by FIFA contained all 23 members of their squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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