MOSCOW - The World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) executive committee has sent a "robust" rebuke of Russia's sports authorities, banning the country's athletes and officials from the Olympics and world championships in a range of sports for four years.
The committee made the move "unanimously" on Monday after WADA concluded that Moscow had tampered with laboratory data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
"For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA's reinstatement conditions ... demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today," WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said in a statement.
"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial," he added.
"As a result, the WADA [executive committee] has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts."
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has 21 days to officially appeal the ruling with the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Several Russian lawmakers immediately decried the move and said it should be appealed.
Aleksandr Ivlev, head of RUSADA's supervisory board, said the body would meet in the next 10 days to decide on further steps that may be taken.
It is expected that WADA's official notice will be sent to RUSADA alleging noncompliance with the World Anti-Doping Code for failing to provide an "authentic" copy of Moscow anti-doping laboratory data.
WADA's decision was based on the recommendations of the agency's Compliance Review Committee (CRC), which had alleged that this data was manipulated before being handed over to investigators, as required under conditions for reinstating RUSADA's compliance with the code in September 2018.
As a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, the International Olympic Committee is bound to honor the decision.
Doping allegations have plagued the country since the revelation of large-scale, state-sponsored doping aimed at improving its medal performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.
In September 2018, WADA lifted the suspension of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA that had been in place for three years on condition that Russia hand over doping data and samples from 2012 to 2015.
But the CRC on November 25 accused Russia of falsifying some of the data provided by a Moscow laboratory in January, and proposed imposing a four-year ban on RUSADA and excluding the country from major sporting competitions.
Sofya Velikaya, a 2016 fencing gold medalist and executive committee member of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), has said she will leave her post ahead of the decision.
"I informed the summit participants about the situation in which we find ourselves based on the recommendations of ROC's sports committee members, and foremost, its chairman," Velikaya said, as cited by ROC press-service head Stanislav Pozdnyakov.
However, RUSADA chief Yury Ganus has called the proposed punishments "justified."