OPINION

When a ban is a ban of sorts, sometimes

The World Anti-Doping Agency has come down on Russia - in a manner of sorts. Photo: Shutterstock

The World Anti-Doping Agency has come down on Russia - in a manner of sorts. Photo: Shutterstock

It seems the World Anti-Doping Agency has caught up with Russia. Well, kinda sorta caught up, anyway.

The nation was handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the world sports drug watchdog on Monday.

There's a get-out clause for those athletes who can prove they are "untainted" as they will be permitted to compete under a neutral flag.

Expect to see a sizeable contingent marching behind aforementioned flag at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

And, if they qualify, expect to see a Russian representative football team at the 2022 World Cup and at Euro 2020 in Qatar.

That's reasonably straightforward. But when it comes to the World Cup, "Russia" can still apparently take part in qualifying.

This, WADA's compliance review committee chairman Jonathan Taylor explained, is "because the qualifiers don't decide the world champion, Russia can take part.

"The decision applies to the World Cup tournament because it decides the world champion".

A FIFA spokesperson said football's world governing body was in contact with WADA to "clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football". OK, then.

But even more murky is the decision as it stands now that it's OK for Russia to host Euro 2020 games because European football's governing body UEFA is not defined as a "major event organisation" with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

So Russia, already qualified for Euro 2020, is fine to play in the tournament.

Seriously?

According to Bleacher Report, the European Championship stands at No. 3 in the list of top 10 football tournaments in the world based on global reputation and sporting challenge.

It's a bit like saying a drug-addled AFL player could play the regular season but not the finals series.

Another significant exclusion is the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix. They were "confident" the race would go ahead because their contract was signed before the WADA investigation and runs until 2025.

The promoters reckon it would be "legally and technically impossible" to move the race. And there's the rub.

No doubt many words will be written and hands wrung over this until the 21-day appeal period is over.

And then another round of explanations will ensue. Of course, as with any sports-drugs-ethics wrangle on the global stage, the only winners in the whole mess will be the lawyers.

Janine Graham is an ACM journalist