The Lausanne-headquartered Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rejected Wales' appeal against the decision of European soccer's governing body, UEFA, to let Russia take part in the 2004 European Championship.
The Football Association of Wales appealed to have Russia excluded from the Euro 2004, claiming that the Russian national squad had no right to play in the finals since its footballer Yegor Titov had tested positive for the banned substance bromantan after the first-leg play-off last year.
Titov was an unused substitute in the goalless first leg of the play-off. He then played in the second leg in Cardiff, when his side secured a 1-0 win to book their passage to next month's finals in Portugal. UEFA has banned Titov for a year for his failing the drugs test.
Vladimir Radionov, Secretary-General of the Russian Football Union, said the verdict was a foregone conclusion. "Last night, however, when it was announced that the verdict would not be handed down until Thursday, I felt somewhat jittery," he confessed while reemphasizing his certainty that the Welsh had absolutely no evidence to prove that the Russian team was implicated in Titov's drug taking. But now, finally, the headache given to the Russians by the WFA is finally over, Radionov said.
The CAS' decision is final and not to be appealed. Which means that Russia can start packing up for the Euro 2004 finals, to run in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon June 12 through July 4.
Russia have been drawn in UEFA EURO 2004 Group A together with Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Russia's poor showing in recent friendlies (especially in the Oslo match, lost to Norway 2-3) and the presence in the mix of Europe's two strongest footballing nations (Spain and Portugal) leave the Russian team with little chance of winning one of the top two qualification spots. This has prompted some Russian soccer specialists to remark jokingly that they wished Wales had succeeded in their attempts to take Russia's place in the Euro 2004 finals.