THE punishments handed out to Russia following their dismal anti-doping record continue, with the country being banned for four years from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

This means that Russian athletes will not be permitted to compete under the Russian banner, nor will the Russian flag or anthem be allowed, and the suspension will include events such as the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

However, Russian athletes will be eligible to compete as long as they can prove they are untouched by the doping scandal that has so severely tarnished their country’s reputation, but they will be forced to compete under a neutral banner.

This ban will not affect Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign though, as the tournament is not included in WADA’s ruling.

Russia finished in second place in Scotland’s group for Euro 2020 qualifying with two victories over Steve Clarke’s men but as UEFA’s isn’t viewed as a ‘Major Sporting Organisation’ by the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories, they will be allowed to remain in the event.

In addition, WADA’s ban means Russia are not allowed to host major sporting events but St Petersburg, who will host Euro 2020 group games as well as a quarter-final, will remain unaffected.

The decision to suspend Russia came by unanimous decision by WADA’s executive committee and follows a litany of anti-doping crimes by the Russians.

Things really began to heat up when it was revealed the lengths the Russians went to to dope their athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, including drilling holes in walls to allow the switching of samples. Following that, Russia were set deadlines with regard to handing over data to WADA and allowing inspection of their labs, with which they failed to comply.

This new ban sends out a signal that the sporting world will not take Russia’s cheating lightly but the damage done is, in many people’s opinion, irreparable. For too long, Russia have been treated lightly, despite laughing in the face of clean sport.

WADA, who are charged with protecting clean athletes, have lost the trust of too many in the sporting world. There are few clean athletes, particularly in high-risk sports such as athletics, biathlon and cross-country skiing, who feel that they are not at risk of being cheated out of medals by athletes who dope and get away with it.

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said the decision showed the organisation’s “determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis”.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” the Scot added.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join 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.”

It is an impossible dilemma for the authorities; by imposing a blanket ban on Russians, they risk punishing clean athletes. But by allowing Russians to compete, they risk losing the faith of the public, who all too often now see an impressive performance and assume doping has played a part in it.

This ban goes some way to repairing the severely damaged reputation caused by Russia’s actions. But rebuilding trust is likely to take far more than four years.