The World Anti-Doping Agency has defended its decision to reinstate Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
RUSADA had been suspended since November 2015 for alleged state-sponsored doping, but the move to reinstate them last week has been criticized by athletes and also UK Anti Doping who said it was “deeply troubling for clean sport”.
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie told Sky Sports News: “I have a written letter from Russia’s Minister of Sport accepting the conditions that we imposed for the reinstatement of RUSADA.
“One of them was to accept effectively the Schmidt report, which they did, and the important part there was an admission that there was involvement of officials from the Ministry of Sport.
“Secondly, they have guaranteed us access to the laboratory and the time limit we set was December 31.
“I take the view that it is unlikely that senior ministerial officials in Russia would make those guarantees when they weren’t prepared to make them.”
He added: “It is better to move forward, above all to get access to the data we need because there are 2,800 samples we need to look at.
“It is really important that we have a functioning anti-doping agency in Moscow.
“I can’t understand why people would prefer to do nothing and carry on with the situation that existed before when quite clearly there was no move at all from Russia to make any change on the two conditions that had been imposed.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations President, Seb Coe, says they will await an independent report before a decision is made on reinstating Russia.
Reedie added the anti-doping testing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be rigorous.
“Every effort will be made to make sure that every athlete who appears in the Olympic Games in Tokyo is a clean athlete.
“I’m not going to guarantee that we don’t have the occasional sinner but I can guarantee you that every possible effort will be made that it doesn’t happen before the Games.”
The reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping agency undermines the faith clean athletes have in the World Anti-Doping Agency, says marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.
Wada has ended a three-year suspension which followed a major scandal over alleged state-sponsored doping.
Briton Radcliffe is one of several leading current and former athletes to criticize Thursday’s decision.
“This goes against everything Wada is supposed to stand for,” she said.
“It undermines their credibility and the faith clean athletes have in them.”
‘To bank on the Russians is naive’
The Russian anti-doping agency (Rusada) had been suspended since 2015 over alleged state-backed doping after it was accused of covering up drug abuse – including while the country hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – in a Wada-commissioned report.
Russia was ordered to meet set criteria before Rusada could be readmitted, which included accepting the findings of the McLaren report into state-sponsored doping and granting access to Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory.
Last week, Wada’s compliance review committee recommended reinstatement after it received assurances from the Russian sports ministry that the country had “sufficiently acknowledged” failures.
Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said the reinstatement, agreed by its executive committee at a meeting in the Seychelles, was “subject to strict conditions”.
However, Radcliffe said she felt Russia has “never accepted the harm they did to clean sport globally” and that the initial criteria set out by Wada “shouldn’t have been up for negotiation”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, she added: “You can’t move the goalposts now without destroying the credibility of Wada.”
On Wednesday, the BBC revealed details of a compromise proposed by Wada director general Olivier Niggli to Russia’s Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov on how to improve the country’s chances of readmission to international sport.
British Olympic track cycling champion Callum Skinner said lifting the ban was “incredibly disappointing” because Wada should be “there to protect clean sport, not there to protect the people they have sanctioned”.
“This is a step backwards in the fight towards making sport cleaner,” he said.
As part of the post-reinstatement conditions, Wada has demanded access to the former Moscow laboratory data and samples by the end of 2018.
Skinner said it was “quite troubling” for Wada to rely on Rusada providing this access when it had not previously under the original conditions of reinstatement.
“To now bank on the Russians to hold up their end of the deal is naive,” he said.
What have other British athletes said?
Goldie Sayers is finally set to receive 2008 Olympic javelin bronze after Russia’s Mariya Abakumova, who initially won silver, was stripped of her medal and failed in her appeal against a doping ban.
Sayers, who retired last year, told BBC Radio 4 Rusada’s reinstatement was a “devastating blow for clean athletes” and that Wada had rushed into the decision.
“Leaders in sports governance forget who they are there to serve. We need governance that is there for the athletes because you do feel very powerless at times,” she said.
“There is a credibility issue in sport and Wada have not helped themselves in that at all. You have to accept that you have a problem before you can change and changing a culture takes years and years, not three years.”
Race walker Tom Bosworth called on Reedie to resign and accused the Wada president of having “let all clean, hard-working athletes down”.
Olympic breaststroke gold medallist Adam Peaty said Wada’s decision was an example of “how to lose the respect of all clean athletes real quick”.
Paralympic powerlifting silver medallist Ali Jawad said: “I’m sorry for every clean athlete around the world let down by Wada. We will keep fighting for our rights to compete clean. I promise we will win the fight one day. We may have lost the battle today but we will win the war.”
Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medallist Laura Weightman said: “Wada should be protecting all the hard-working, clean athletes out there, but they have let us all down.”
‘A slap in the face’ – reaction from anti-doping heads
US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) head Travis Tygart said the decision was a “catastrophic outcome” for clean athletes and sports fans.
“We all want every nation in the Olympics, particularly those that are competitive and powerful and influential like Russia – but not at the expense of the Olympic values,” he told BBC Sport.
“We trusted them, they cheated like never before.
“This is a slap in the face for those who put clean sport and fair play above sport politics and the influence that money and large countries have within the sport promotion arena.”
UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) chief executive Nicole Sapstead said she was “incredibly saddened” by Wada’s move.
“Ukad had hoped the decision to reinstate Russia would be postponed, at least for a few months so that some due consideration could be given to the compromise that seems to have been put on the table,” she told the BBC.
“It’s important an entity like Wada exists – it is there to uphold a set of rules that apply to every country and every athlete. But that sort of organisation has to be beyond reproach, it has to uphold the stands and it has to be held to account when it hasn’t.
“Wada needs to move forward in a constructive way, it needs to repair the damage it has done to the athlete community and to the wider anti-doping community, and it needs to restore the trust we have in it.”
There was also objection within Wada, with two of the 12-strong executive committee voting against Rusada’s reinstatement – New Zealand’s Clayton Cosgrove and Wada vice-president Linda Helleland.
Norwegian politician Helleland, who hopes to replace Briton Reedie as Wada president next year, said the organisation had “failed the clean athletes of the world”.
“This casts a dark shadow over the credibility of the anti-doping movement – it was wrong to welcome Rusada back until they had fully and transparently met the roadmap.”
The reaction from Russia
Russia has repeatedly denied running a state-sponsored doping programme and continued to deny full access to and retained control of its Moscow laboratory.
In a letter to Wada president Reedie last week, Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said: “I am grateful for your acknowledgement of the significant achievements in rebuilding Rusada.”
Russian MP and 2006 Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova echoed Kolobkov’s comments, saying “much has been done” to reform Rusada to “get to this stage”.
“We changed our legislation, we’ve travelled a long journey to correct mistakes and act on Wada’s comments,” she told the BBC.
“Russia has recognised and corrected nearly all the points in the McLaren report. Some of the points in that report even the Court of Arbitration of Sport didn’t recognise and some Russian sportsmen had their medals returned.”
She added that “Russia has been punished enough” and the “complaints don’t exist today”.
“If we keep looking back, at when Russia didn’t do this, we won’t make any progress,” she said.
“Of course, if someone in the West doesn’t want our athletes and Paralympians to compete, you will still hear voices saying: ‘Do not reinstate Rusada.’
“If you don’t want to see Russia as a rival in track and field and Paralympics, then I understand this – but this is more politics than common sense.”
World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) vice-president Linda Helleland says she will vote against lifting the suspension of Russia’s anti-doping agency (Rusada) this week.
Wada’s executive committee meets in the Seychelles on Thursday where they are expected to pave the way for Russia’s readmission into international sport after a major doping scandal.
But Helleland has become the first member of Wada’s senior leadership to oppose the move, insisting the country has not yet met key demands.
“I will vote against the reinstatement of Russia,” she said as the issue continued to cause unprecedented division within the organisation.
Last week, Wada’s compliance review committee (CRC) recommended that its executive committee end a three-year suspension of Rusada, saying the country had “sufficiently acknowledged” failures.
Wada had previously insisted Russia meet two criteria as part of a ‘roadmap’ for its return to compliance: accept the findings of the 2015 McLaren report after an investigation revealed an extensive, government-backed cheating conspiracy, and grant access to its drug-tainted Moscow laboratory.
However BBC Sport then revealed details of a compromise suggested by Wada’s president Sir Craig Reedie and director-general Olivier Niggli to Russia’s Sports Minister in June that was eventually accepted.
Wada defended the apparent softening of its position, but the revelation has sparked an outcry from various athletes and national anti-doping agencies.
Now Helleland – who hopes to replace Reedie as Wada president next year – has also broken ranks.
In a statement the Norwegian politician said: “I can see that progress is being made and I acknowledge the efforts done by Rusada, but as long as the McLaren report is not acknowledged and Wada still has no access to the laboratories, I will vote against the reinstatement of Russia.
“I am in no doubt that the tabled proposal is deviating considerably from the original roadmap and hence I feel I am obliged to defend previous decisions at the Wada ExCo (executive committee). This is one of the most critical decisions the anti-doping community has ever faced.
“I will vote for, and support the original roadmap. This is because I believe you should never make any compromises that undermine your credibility.
“If you choose to reinstate Russia, you defy the very wish of the athletes’ committees around the world, who have very clearly stated that they will not accept a reinstatement now.
“This moment will forever define the credibility of Wada as the independent and strong front runner for clean sport.”
Russia has repeatedly denied running a state-sponsored doping programme, and have been approached for comment.
In a letter to Reedie last week, Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said: “I am grateful for your acknowledgement of the significant achievements in rebuilding Rusada.”
Calls for decision to be postponed
Meanwhile, seven members of Wada’s athlete committee – from seven countries – have signed a statement in which they say “any compromise… will be a devastating blow to clean athletes and clean sport”.
Ten members of the Wada athlete committee have not added their names to the statement, although its chair – Canadian Olympian Beckie Scott, who resigned from the CRC in protest – is also understood to be in support.
“It is for Rusada to be compliant, not for Wada to change its conditions to make Rusada compliant,” they say.
“It should not be possible to commit the biggest doping scandal of the 21st Century and then be reinstated without completing the conditions that have been set.
“Any compromise on the road map will be a devastating blow to clean athletes and clean sport.”
As the civil war in global anti-doping has intensified, the UK Anti-Doping Agency has joined with other leading national anti-doping organisations around the world to call for a postponement of any decision by Wada.
In a remarkable joint statement, the bodies said they were “dismayed” at what they called “a shifting of the goalposts” by Wada and accused it of “sending a message to the world that doping is tolerated” over its deal with Russia.
“In the interests of athletes we urge Wada to postpone the decision of its executive committee on Thursday until such time as Russia has clearly and publicly met the outstanding conditions of Wada’s roadmap,” they said.
The US Olympic Committee Athletes’ Advisory Council has offered its “full and unwavering support” to the stance.
“By acting on promises, and not proven compliance, Wada’s decision on reinstating Rusada would weaken the increasingly delicate integrity of international sport. Ignoring the established conditions also ignores the athletes’ voice that has been begging for a fair and even playing field,” it said.
Russian athletes’ involvement at major events is in doubt until authorities admit cheating, says the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), currently suspended by Wada, is yet to accept proof of state-sponsored doping.
Wada is also unable to access hundreds of athletes’ samples stored in a Moscow laboratory central to the scandal.
“The big losers here are Russian athletes,” said Sir Craig Reedie.
“We have been trying to persuade them to recognise and accept as true the systemic doping as revealed by the investigations led by Professor Richard McLaren and Samuel Schmid, which was the basis of the recent International Olympic Committee decision on Russia’s neutral status at the Winter Olympics.”
The McLaren report concluded 1,000 athletes across 30 sports benefitted from the doping programme between 2012 and 2015.
Athletes who could prove they were clean were allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under a neutral flag.
While Rusada – suspended in November 2015 – has now met all the other requirements on Wada’s road map for reinstatement, Reedie said there has been no progress on the final two points.
“We made an offer to senior Russian officials in Pyeongchang to visit the Moscow laboratory together but it seems our offer has fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
“We have also written to the Russian Investigatory Committee four times to offer our help and we have not had a single response.
“Their participation in future events will continue to be put in doubt and the rest of the world will not be convinced any meaningful change has taken place.”
But RUSADA’s new director general Yury Ganus said acknowledgement of state-sponsored doping “doesn’t depend on us”.
“It’s a difficult question and we’re not responsible for this question,” he added.
“We’re doing our best, but it’s a question for state officials and it’s a question of negotiation.”
Speaking at Wada’s 14th annual conference in Lausanne, Reedie’s address followed comments from the Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov to the TASS news agency, suggesting that the country’s “sports remains hostage” to McLaren’s findings.
Kolobkov cited the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) overturning the Olympic life bans of 28 Russian athletes which had been based on McLaren’s conclusion that 1,000 athletes across 30 sports benefitted from the doping programme between 2012 and 2015.
Cas said that in 28 cases evidence was “insufficient” to prove doping – a decision IOC chief Thomas Bach called “extremely disappointing and surprising”.
“When 28 of our athletes were cleared, the decision was made by an independent court, it was a meaningful judicial process involving witnesses, our athletes, experts and testimonies provided by McLaren and [whistleblower Grigory] Rodchenkov,” said Kolobkov.
“The decision speaks for itself, they have been cleared by professional judges.
“If they demand that we recognise the McLaren report, it means there is no evidence and demands are taking the place of real evidence.”