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Russia’s Failing WADA Compliance Risks Korea Olympics Ban

  • Daniel Schearf

Fireworks explode to celebrate 100 days to go until the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Incheon, South Korea, Nov. 1, 2017.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has refused to reinstate Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), declaring it to still be non-compliant with the global sports watchdog’s rules and raising the risk Russian athletes could be banned from the South Korean-hosted Winter Olympics in February 2018.

At a meeting in Seoul Thursday, WADA’s Foundation Board approved the recommendation from its Compliance Review Committee, which had said Russian authorities still refuse to acknowledge the findings of a damning July 2016 WADA-commissioned report that found systemic, state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Russia also refuses access to test samples in a sealed Moscow anti-doping laboratory and there remain problems of getting access to Russian athletes for testing in some cities, said committee head Jonathan Taylor.

WADA declared Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency non-compliant in November 2015 after investigating evidence of a state-sponsored drug program, which was first revealed by German TV ARD a year earlier. WADA mapped out a plan for RUSADA to follow in order to get reinstated.

Russia can’t accept

Russian authorities maintain there was no state-sponsored system of administering performance-enhancing drugs to athletes and covering-up the test results — instead blaming a few bad apples. They argue the Moscow test lab is sealed — not to prevent access to test samples — but due a federal investigation.

FILE - A man smokes a cigarette at the entrance of National anti-doping agency, RUSADA in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.
FILE - A man smokes a cigarette at the entrance of National anti-doping agency, RUSADA in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

Russian sports officials at the Seoul WADA meeting refused to answer questions from waiting western media but held a closed-door briefing for Russian media.

Russia's Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov told Russia’s Interfax news agency Moscow could never fully accept claims against RUSADA as Russia had no state-backed doping system.

FILE - Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov leaves a meeting about the Russian athletics team and federation held by the executive committee of the Russian Olympic Committee in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 18, 2015.
FILE - Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov leaves a meeting about the Russian athletics team and federation held by the executive committee of the Russian Olympic Committee in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 18, 2015.

Russia’s Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov on Thursday dismissed the suggestion that access was not being fully granted to test Russian athletes. He told Russia’s TASS news agency, “If athletes were not available for out-of-competition testing, we are talking about no more than ten cases.”

WADA 'Inventing reasons'

Russian authorities have often argued the allegations of state-run doping are part of a western conspiracy to tarnish their country’s reputation.

Kolobkov seemed to repeat that view when he said the Thursday ruling had a “political nature” in comments to R-Sport news.

He accused Taylor of acting like the chief judge with Russia on trial.

FILE - Pavel Kolobkov, Minister of Sport of Russia addresses the Symposium of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in Ecublens, Switzerland, March 13, 2017.
FILE - Pavel Kolobkov, Minister of Sport of Russia addresses the Symposium of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in Ecublens, Switzerland, March 13, 2017.

“Russia is a country that deserves a different attitude instead of a trial performed by Taylor,” Zhukov was quoted saying by TASS news.

Russia’s Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov was quoted by Russian news as accusing WADA committee head Jonathan Taylor of “inventing reasons” not to reinstate RUSADA.

Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, and Mauritius were also declared non-compliant at the Thursday meeting by the WADA board.

Olympic ban?

WADA’s decision comes just weeks before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide on Russia’s participation in the February 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, increasing the likelihood that Russian athletes could be restricted or possibly even banned.

Last week, WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department announced it had acquired a large database of Russian drug test results from the former WADA-accredited Moscow laboratory and was finalizing the forensic analysis that would be shared with the IOC.

The IOC executive board meets on December 5.

"WADA’s decision to maintain suspension on Russia anti-doping agency doesn’t directly decide whether the country can participate in the games," said Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Pyeongchang organizing committee (POCOG), to Reuters news agency. "It is a sensitive issue, and we are waiting for IOC’s official decision for now."

Russia’s track and field athletes and Paralympics athletes were banned from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

If Russia is banned from the 2018 games, individual Russian athletes may still be allowed to compete, but not under the Russian flag — a prospect that Russian authorities have already dismissed as unacceptable.

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