World anti-doping regulators are recommending Russia be declared non-compliant again, setting up a showdown that could make the country ineligible for next summer's Olympics.
The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday that its compliance and review committee made the recommendation after reviewing a case involving manipulated data from the Moscow anti-doping lab that was being used to prosecute cases.
The WADA executive committee will discuss the recommendation at a meeting December 9, and if it agrees, it will set in motion a process that could end with Russia being booted from the Tokyo Games.
Under new rules created in the aftermath of the Russian doping scandal that marred the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the Russians could appeal any sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The International Olympic Committee would have to abide by the decisions from WADA or the court, though its president, Thomas Bach, said earlier this week he was not in favor of a total ban.
The text of the rules currently in place say that in the case of a "critical" violation, the likes of which is confronting Russia: "The athletes ... representing that country ... will be excluded from participation in or attendance at the Olympic Games ... for the next edition of that event, or until reinstatement (whichever is longer)."
At the last Winter Games, the IOC banned Russia as a country but allowed 168 Russian athletes to compete under the banner "Olympic Athlete from Russia".
A similar arrangement could be made for Tokyo.
The news, delivered late Friday, came only hours after track's governing body said it was reviewing whether to continue with such an arrangement in that sport after new charges that senior officials in the country's track federation faked medical records.
World Athletics is also considering stripping Russia's membership. President Sebastian Coe said "we need to deal with renegade factions like this".
In the WADA case, the sanction would be directed at Russia's anti-doping agency, which has been revamped in the wake of a scandal that investigators showed was directed by government authorities.
RUSADA's current leader, Yuri Ganus, has been bracing for such a decision and urging his own government to come clean, and help stamp out the embers of a scandal that has gone on for five years and now threatens an entirely new generation of athletes.
WADA lifted RUSADA's earlier suspension as part of an agreement that it would receive the data, only to later discover it had been tampered with, and that the tampering did not appear random.
WADA said it had built more than 40 cases based on data that had not been tampered with, and corroborated information brought to the agency via whistleblowers who unearthed the case.
The scheme was designed to allow Russian athletes to dope without getting caught by substituting urine samples taken at the Sochi Games with clean ones stored from earlier.