Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Despite protests, Russia's anti-doping agency reinstated

Published:Friday | September 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Russian National Anti-doping Agency (RUSADA) head Yuri Ganus (left) and Margarita Pakhnotskaya, deputy CEO of RUSADA, leave their office to talk to journalists in Moscow, Russia yesterday.

VICTORIA, Seychelles (AP):

The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia's scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business yesterday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports' most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as "treachery" by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency's compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn't change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world's largest testing programmes back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia's Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

But RUSADA's reinstatement, after nearly a three-year suspension, now clears the country to again bid for major international events - although football's World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia's track team to be declared compliant by that sport's international governing body (IAAF) - one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against the doping - though the IAAF released a statement saying there were other milestones still unmet and its next update wasn't due until December.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

"WADA's decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history," said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

 

DEVASTATING BLOW

 

WADA had been telegraphing the move since September 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. "I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I'm quite dismayed."

Ben Hawes, chairman of the British Olympic Association's Athletes' Commission, said: "It is clear the process of the removal of these sanctions while key criteria have yet to be fulfilled has angered the athlete community."

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there's still work to be done.

"These questions will always follow us," said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded.

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA's reinstatement (and still pending in the eyes of the IAAF regarding the track team) involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded that the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by December 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared non-compliant.