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Russia’s ban from international competition has been cut in half from four years to two years. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided Wednesday after hearing the beleaguered nation’s appeal.

For now, Russian athletes may continue to seek approval to compete as neutrals. However, athletes cannot use a Russian uniform. Their kit must indicate nuetral athlete with no indication of the Russian Federation anywhere. The Russian natoinal anthem will not be played during medal ceremonies.

The new ban date range starts Wednesday, Dec. 15 and runs through to Dec. 16, 2022.

The CAS panel wrote that the punishments imposed “This [reduced suspension]should not, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA [Russian Anti-Doping Agency] or the Russian authorities. In making its orders, the panel is limited by the powers granted under the applicable law…”

In a press statement World Anti-Doping President Witold Banka said, “We are pleased with this win. We are, however, disappointed that the CAS panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested.”

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) and other agencies have shown little to no improvement in their attitude towards doping since the ban was initially handed down in 2015.

In Novmember the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) suspended former Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) officials Elena Ikonnikova and Elena Orlova for six and eight years, respectively. They are banned due to their participation of obstructing an anti-doping investigation of world champion high jumper Danil Lysenko.

The two worked in administration and were among a total of seven individuals associated with RusAF charged by the AIU last November, which helped the World Anti-Doping Agency and World Athletics to continue Russia’s competition ban.

Russian whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov, living in exile in the US told Athletics Illustrated, “…that in Russian culture corruption is embedded in normal everyday behavior.”

Amid the chaos, in August, RUSADA Director-General Yuri Ganus was fired when the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) made the recommendation earlier that month.

The RUSADA Supervisory Board had earlier that month recommended the dismissal of Ganus, after an audit allegedly revealed a “number of significant irregularities in the financial and economic activities” of the organisation.

ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov previously had recommended that the organisation would approve his dismissal. 

RUSADA lawyer Mikhail Bukhanov is now acting as the interim director-general. The organisation expected to name a permanent director-general in 2020.

“Having carefully considered all the arguments of colleagues, the general meeting of the founders of RUSADA decided to accept the recommendations and remove Ganus from office,” Pozdnyakov told TASS, the Russian news agency.

At that same time, RusAF was looking at being expelled if they did not pay fines to World Athletics that they still owed.

The World Athletics Council announced that they would expel the RusAF from membership with World Athletics if they failed to make a $5 million (USD) fine as well as another $1.31 million in expenses before August 15, 2020.

The Council met by teleconference due to the pandemic and subsequently agreed to follow the recommendations of the Taskforce, delivered by chairperson Rune Andersen.

Anderson said the Taskforce spent “an enormous amount of time and effort trying to help RusAF reform itself and Russian athletics, for the benefit of all clean Russian athletes” but the response from RusAF had been inadequate.

Russian whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian Anti-Doping Agency staff member told Athletics Illustrated that corruption is a way of life in Russia. He said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “Russia does not have corruption, it is often said “we have a mutual understanding.”

Meaning of course that corruption is systemic.