Liam Morgan

The decision from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Russia has caused a headache for International Federations (IFs) across the Olympic Movement and beyond.

Of particular concern is the ruling which bars Russia from hosting major sports events in the four-year period of its ban. This includes those the country has already been awarded, which must be reassigned elsewhere "unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so".

Russia must also not be allocated any major events during the time of its latest supposed exile from world sport, which begins as soon as the WADA decision is final - i.e. when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) makes its ruling in a case that will almost certainly drag on towards Tokyo 2020.

Exactly what constitutes a "major event" has been the subject of much debate, scrutiny and confusion in the week or so since the WADA Executive Committee voted unanimously in favour of a raft of sanctions on Russia, after it was found to have manipulated the Moscow Laboratory data.

The recommendations from the WADA Compliance Review Committee (CRC), endorsed by the ruling body, state Russia "may not host in the four year period…any other event organised by a Major Event Organisation (MEO)".

MEOs are defined by the World Anti-Doping Code as "the continental associations of National Olympic Committees and other international multi-sport organisations that function as the ruling body for any continental, regional or other international event".

There are strange anomalies, though, like Russia being able to compete and host matches at next year's UEFA European Championship - which pulls in a greater audience than World Championships in some of the more obscure Olympic sports - because it is a continental, rather than global, event.

Russia could also participate in qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup under their own flag, but would have to play as neutrals should they defy the odds and secure a spot at the tournament.

It is little wonder that a host of sports organisations have released statements in the past 10 days saying they will seek clarity on the exact impact and consequences of the decision.

Russia are free to compete at next year's UEFA European Championship under their own flag ©Getty Images
Russia are free to compete at next year's UEFA European Championship under their own flag ©Getty Images

Those IFs who have upcoming events in Russia will have breathed a sigh of relief at confirmation that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) will appeal to CAS, as it delays the implementation of any sanctions.

It will mean organisations such as the International Luge Federation are free to proceed as planned with its 2020 World Championships, in Sochi in February.

But surely it is the duty of all IFs to consider whether it is appropriate to hold major events in a country which has circumvented the rules so brazenly, irrespective of the WADA recommendations?

After all, there is precedent here. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) and the International Biathlon Union stripped World Championships from Russia in the months following the publication of the explosive McLaren Report in December 2016.

An IBSF statement confirming it had removed the hosting rights from Sochi said that "during this difficult time it is prudent not to organise such an event in Russia".

Sochi was stripped of the right to host the 2017 IBSF World Championships ©Getty Images
Sochi was stripped of the right to host the 2017 IBSF World Championships ©Getty Images

That was at a time when, if you use the Russian stance, accusations of wrongdoing by the country were merely allegations. The fact these have been corroborated beyond any doubt since, coupled with the flagrant tampering and deletion of data from the laboratory, seems more than enough justification not to hold events in Russia for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately for those calling for strong action against Russia, plenty of IFs have appeared reluctant to do so, and it is feasible they are hoping CAS takes a while before rendering its final decision, as this will give them an excuse not to move flagship events away from one of global sport's largest investors.

It will provide them with an easy escape from taking strong action against Russia, a path chosen by vast swathes of sports organisations. Only a few have bucked the pro-Russian trend.

Some will argue reallocation is logistically and legally difficult, but the IBSF is living proof it can be done; its decision to strip Sochi of the 2017 World Championships was made just two months before the start of competition in a city which hosted the event where the effectiveness of the state-controlled doping scheme was at its peak.

Granted it may be easier for the IBSF than the International Volleyball Federation, for example, whose 2022 Men's World Championship is set to be held across 10 different cities in Russia.

It will be interesting to see whether the apparent reticence from IFs continues if CAS uphold WADA’s decision in full as, in that scenario, they will be legally bound to follow the sanctions as signatories of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Even then, it is not a stretch to imagine IFs scrambling around to find a legal reason not to implement the WADA directive.

The warning signs are already there. International Ice Hockey Federation President René Fasel is on record as saying it will be "impossible" to strip its 2023 Men's World Championship from Russia, while there are quiet murmurings of defiance from others directly affected by the WADA ruling.

It is almost as if these federations have come together to draft a near-identical response when asked to comment on the WADA decision. "We acknowledge WADA's decision, but will wait until the appeal process is finished" is the rough gist.

IIHF President René Fasel has claimed it will be
IIHF President René Fasel has claimed it will be "impossible" to move the 2023 World Ice Hockey Championship from Russia ©Getty Images

Would it not, however, be "prudent" of these organisations to quietly seek out interest from alternative host countries for competitions scheduled for Russia?

While it would be unfair to comment publicly, there would be nothing wrong with privately looking for new locations for their major events.

Yes, it would be akin to tapping up a manager for a job somebody else occupies, but it would allow them to get ahead of any CAS ruling and would end any uncertainty for sport's most important stakeholders - the athletes.

More generally, given the scale of deception committed by Russia, any sporting event taking place in the nation during the four-year period of RUSADA's non-compliance, be it continental or global, sends entirely the wrong message.

Responses from IFs who have awarded events to Russia, or where the country has indicated an interest to bid/entered a bid for a major event:

International Volleyball Federation: "The FIVB will not comment on the RUSADA compliance situation until the full legal process, including all appeals, has concluded."

FIFA (Russia hosting 2021 Beach Soccer World Cup): "FIFA has taken note of the decision taken by WADA Executive Committee. FIFA is in contact with WADA and ASOIF to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football."

International Automobile Federation (Sochi hosting Grands Prix): "We will monitor the situation to see if there is an appeal and what would be its outcome."

International Basketball Federation (Russia bidding for 2022 Women's Basketball World Cup): "FIBA acknowledges the WADA Executive Committee's endorsement of the independent Compliance Review Committee's recommendation regarding the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which was published last week. FIBA will evaluate the situation and communicate further once the process with regard to potential consequences has reached its conclusion."

World Rugby (Russia considering bid for 2027 Rugby World Cup): "Given that the bid process for RWC 2027/31 will not launch until late next year and that the Russia situation appears to be dynamic, with an appeal window ongoing, it would be inappropriate to speculate at this very early stage."

insidethegames has contacted the International Luge Federation and International Federation of Sport Climbing for a response.