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A woman walks into the head office of the World Anti-Doping Agency, in Montreal, in a Nov. 9, 2015, file photo.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

The World Anti-Doping Agency wants a rare public hearing for sport’s highest court to judge a four-year slate of punishments faced by Russia for persistent cheating.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is preparing a hearing expected within weeks for the blockbuster case in Switzerland.

“It is WADA’s view – and that of many of our stakeholders – that this dispute at CAS should be held in a public forum to ensure that everybody understands the process and hears the arguments,” the Montreal-based agency’s director general, Olivier Niggli, said in a statement.

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Urged on by President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, is formally challenging a WADA ruling in December to declare it non-compliant after key data from the Moscow testing laboratory were corrupted.

The CAS panel of three judges will have power to enforce WADA-recommended sanctions including a ban on Russia’s team name, flag and anthem at Olympic Games and world championships.

WADA also wants Russian athletes to compete as neutrals at the Olympics and major events only if they pass a vetting process that examines their history of drug testing and possible involvement in lab cover-ups of positive tests.

CAS hearings can be opened to media and public observers in some cases when both parties consent.

The court held its first public hearing for 20 years in November when WADA appealed a ruling by swimming’s world body not to ban China’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang for alleged doping rule violations.

Evidence was heard over almost 10 hours in a lakeside hotel ballroom at Montreux, Switzerland, with media attending and proceedings streamed live on the court’s website. A verdict is expected this month.

However, it is unclear if the WADA vs. Russia case fits the limited scope of CAS cases that can be heard in public.

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The Sun Yang case is a more traditional appeal in a disciplinary case involving a single athlete.

The latest Russian case is an arbitration dispute between two institutions.

The years-long saga of Russian state-backed doping was intended to make a big step toward being resolved when Russia handed over the Moscow lab’s doping data archive in January. That was a central demand in exchange for WADA sanctions against RUSADA being lifted in September, 2018.

However, WADA investigators found evidence Russia edited the data in the weeks before the handover to remove signs of failed drug tests, and detailed an apparent attempt to smear former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov. He has become a key witness for WADA since leaving Russia to enter a United States witness protection program.

Russia has produced its own report arguing that any editing was the result of illicit changes made from abroad, or the instability of the lab software.

A verdict in the CAS process is due in May, about two months before the Tokyo Olympics begin.

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