Russia’s national soccer team cannot play in the 2022 World Cup under the Russian flag because of doping sanctions that bar the country from major sporting events for four years, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Monday.
But WADA said the sanctions would not prevent the Russian city of St Petersburg hosting matches during next year’s Euro 2020 soccer championship or the 2021 Champions League final because they were “not multi-sport major events or world championships but rather regional/continental single-sport events.”
“If they qualify (for the World Cup), a team representing Russia cannot participate. But if there is a mechanism put in place, then they can apply to participate on a neutral basis, not as representatives of Russia,” Jonathan Taylor, chair of WADA’s compliance review committee, told a news conference.
Taylor said FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, had the option of putting in place such a mechanism and that it would allow clean Russian athletes to apply to compete as neutrals.
“It will be for FIFA to implement, but they will have to do so in conjunction with WADA,” Taylor said. “But there will be no flag or anthem.”
A spokesperson for FIFA said the organisation had asked WADA and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) to clarify how the four-year ban affected Russia’s football teams.
The sanctions against Russia, the host of last year’s soccer World Cup, also bar it from hosting major sporting events for a four-year period or applying to host new events in that period.
European soccer body UEFA said it had no comment.
Taylor said WADA had to treat all sports the same way.
“There are only a few sports where the European championships matter as much as they do in football,” he told Reuters. “You could argue in football that, really, you needed to go further. But, in other sports, that would be going too far.”