Fireworks conclude the Opening Ceremony after the lighting of the Olympic Flame for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Friday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
July 23 (UPI) -- The World Anti-Doping Agency says it had to ban some Russian athletes from competing at the Tokyo Olympics because they are under suspicion of cheating.
The Tokyo Games will include 335 athletes from Russia who must compete under the designation ROC, an acronym for Russian Olympic Committee. Russia's flag and anthem are also barred at the Games.
Several years ago, WADA found that Russia conducted a state-sponsored doping program that ran from 2011 to 2015 and involved more than 1,000 athletes in dozens of sports. During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, it discovered that Russian officials swapped out dirty urine of their athletes for clean samples through a hole in the wall.
WADA banned Russia from international competition for four years, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cut the ban in half in 2020.
WADA President Witold Banka told the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday that it collaborated with international federations to prevent Russian athletes or support personnel with "clear evidence of cheating" in the past from participating in the Games.
Banka said the effort was connected with data and doping control samples WADA retrieved from the former Moscow Laboratory.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov took a swipe at the doping agency on Friday, accusing it of being controlled by West and suggesting that the ban and treatment of Russian athletes have more to do with politics than cheating.
"We will strive for a universal, equal approach for all countries, even within the framework of those conventions on fighting doping that were approved and that have mechanisms of their implementation within the framework of the Council of Europe and within the framework of UNESCO," Lavrov told state-run news agency TASS.