Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) still has “significant work” to do to get its suspension lifted, the World Anti-Doping Agency said on Monday.
WADA President Craig Reedie said RUSADA, suspended in 2015 after the drugs scandal that led to Russian track-and-field athletes being banned from the following year’s Rio Olympics, had taken steps forward in the past year. But more were needed, he said.
“There remains significant work to do. (RUSADA) must demonstrate its processes are autonomous and independent from outside interference,” Reedie told an international meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In a reminder of the continuing fallout from the scandal, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday upheld a lifetime ban on Sergei Portugalov, former chief of the Russian Athletics Federation’s Medical Commission, for his role in providing illicit substances to Russian competitors.
In a 2015 report, WADA had written that Portugalov supplied performance-enhancing drugs to athletes and coaches, administered doping programmes and “even injected athletes himself”.
In November 2015, a WADA commission said Russia had systematically broken anti-doping rules. It subsequently revoked the status of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory and stated that RUSADA did not comply with WADA standards.
A WADA-commissioned report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found state-backed doping involved more than 1,000 athletes in the country.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said in Lausanne that RUSADA was working towards being considered compliant within the year, and listed what he said was progress on restructuring the country’s anti-doping system.
“We are ready to cooperate. We are open to all kinds of inspections,” said Kolobkov, speaking after Reedie.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month denied the McLaren report’s findings about state-sponsored doping but acknowledged there had been individual instances of cheating that indicated the country’s current system was not working.
“The ball is in their camp and we will see when they will be able to deliver this programme,” WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said.
He described Putin’s comments as “very encouraging, going in the right direction”.
“I hope that politics can now stay at the door and we can all focus on protecting clean sports and clean athletes,” Niggli said.
Russia’s athletics ban has continued into 2017 and may include the August world championships in London, after a Task Force monitoring the nation’s anti-doping programme refused last month to put any dates on a “road map” for a return.