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Ban threatens Russia's RWC involvement

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Russia's involvement in Rugby World Cup 2023 in serious doubt

Russia’s involvement in the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been thrown into serious doubt following a new ban for doping offences.

On Monday morning, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) voted unanimously to ban Russia from international sport for four years.

The punishment will see Russia banned from participating in a number of major sporting events, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

However, while it has not yet been made explicitly clear whether the ban would also rule them out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, World Rugby are one of the many governing bodies who adhere to WADA’s anti-doping code.

As such, it is expected any such ban would include the 2023 tournament in France.

However there are a number of complications with the nature of such a ban, and it is possible that it would be dealt with differently on a sport by sport basis.

Speaking at a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, WADA chiefs were unable to clarify the specifics of the ban.

“Can we be definitive as to what each individual case means? No,” said Jonathan Taylor QC, the Chair of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee. “But it will need to be subject to guidelines.”

It was confirmed that while athletes will not be allowed to compete under the Russian flag, they would be allowed to do so under a neutral flag. This happened at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Things are complicated further when it comes to team sports.

Take soccer, where Russia may still be allowed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. If successful in their qualification campaign, they would potentially be allowed compete as a neutral team at the finals.

Such a move would need to be cleared by WADA.

“If (FIFA) wants to put in place a mechanism for athletes who are not contaminated, they can do it, implement it, but they will have to do it with Wada, but there will be no flag or hymn,” Taylor said.

It is not yet clear if this would also be the case with the Rugby World Cup.

RugbyPass requested a statement on the matter from World Rugby but did not receive a response before publishing.

The ban also extends to Russia’s eligibility to host major sporting events. In October, Stanislav Druzhinin, the director general of the Rugby Union of Russia, had confirmed their intention to bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup. Since the bidding process would take place during the four-year ban, Russia would not be able to bid to host the tournament.

Russia finished bottom of Pool A at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, taking no points from a group that saw they play Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Samoa.

Russia have 21 days to appeal against the sentence. The start date for the ban has not yet been stated.

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Russia's involvement in Rugby World Cup 2023 in serious doubt
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