DUSSELDORF, GERMANY – The World Anti-Doping Agency has confirmed that Russia’s hosting of European Championship soccer matches next year won’t be affected by recommendations it should be banned from hosting major events.
WADA’s compliance review committee has proposed that rule as part of a package of sanctions for Russia over alleged tampering with doping records. WADA’s executive board will vote on the recommendation Dec. 9.
“As regards UEFA, the Euros is not a multi-sport major event or a world championship but rather a regional/continental single-sport event,” WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald told The Associated Press by email.
“So it is not affected by this recommendation.”
St. Petersburg is due to host four games, including a quarterfinal. The city also holds the Champions League final in 2021, another event not covered by the recommendations.
The European Championships are widely expected to be the second most-watched sporting event in the world next year after the Olympics in Tokyo, based on TV viewing.
Research into the 2016 tournament found that the final attracted 284.4 million as an “average in-home global audience” — the industry-standard audit tracking viewers minute-by-minute — and that 600 million viewers watched at least some of Portugal’s 1-0 win over France.
UEFA is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code, but Europe’s soccer governing body is a subsidiary of FIFA, which has signed up to the code. UEFA also runs its own anti-doping program.
Russia is accused of altering lab data to remove positive tests, at a time when the data was held by Russian law enforcement. Handing over the data was meant to clear up past cover-ups and smooth Russia’s way back into global sports after years doping scandals.
The WADA committee has proposed a package of sanctions including a four-year ban on hosting major events in Russia and a similar four-year sanction on Russians competing in top events like the Olympics, though they could enter as neutrals.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the recommendation are “unpleasant for us,” but it would wait for them to be confirmed by WADA.
“Let’s remain sober-minded. This information causes concern, we regret that,” Peskov told reporters.
“The Russian sports authorities have always been and will be fully open for cooperation with the international sports community and WADA. A detailed explanation has been given on the questions that have been asked.”