US anti-doping agency head: Russia sports ban a ‘weak punishment’

Russia has been banned from competing in major international sporting competitions including the Olympics and World Cup for four years, but the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) believes the punishment is far from what they deserve.

Agency CEO Travis Tygart spoke to CNN World Sport anchor Don Riddell on Monday, calling the four-year ban another “weak punishment” that will only encourage the country to continue their behavior.

“It’s the same punishment that was put in place back in 2016 and effectively the same punishment that was put in place in 2018 during the Winter Games,” Tygart told CNN.

“And we know it hasn’t been effective in those other instances and we’re fools to think it’s going to be effective this time around to stop the fraud and the manipulation that has taken place at the hands of the Russian sport powers.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia on Monday from sporting competitions over doping non-compliance. The decision came after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSDA) failed to cooperate during investigations into sports in Russia.

RUSADA has 21 days to accept the decision or send the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Svetlana Zhurova, first deputy chairperson of the international committee of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house, said she is “100% sure” the country will go to court to defend Russian athletes.

Tygart said he did not believe the ban would change the country’s behavior in covering up the doping habits of their athletes.

“If anything, these weak punishments and consequences have only emboldened them to take greater action to ensure that their athletes are cheating and be able to get away with it,” Tygart said.

The latest ban leaves the door open for Russian athletes, who can prove they are not tainted by the scandal, to compete as neutral athletes.

For example, the Russian national team can still qualify for the Olympics in 2020, but if successful would have to compete as a neutral team in Tokyo.

Tygart believes that unless CAS decides to appropriately discipline Russia, a decision which he said is backed by “athletes around the world,” the national team will make an appearance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“There’s no question they’ll have a full delegation, just like they did in Pyeongchang, just like they did in Rio,” he said.

Jill Martin, Ben Church and Ben Morse contributed to this report.

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