Paris (AFP) – Russia will discover Tuesday whether they are to face fresh sanctions over December’s missed deadline to allow WADA investigators access to the Moscow laboratory at the epicentre of the state-sponsored doping scandal.
The World Anti-Doping Agency meets via conference call at 1300 GMT to discuss recommendations on the compliance of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA).
This is the latest chapter in an affair that surfaced with Richard McLaren’s July 2016 report detailing doping in Russia from 2011 to 2015 involving more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30 sports.
The Canadian lawyer’s damning revelations led to Russia’s athletics team being barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics and Russian competitors exiled from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
WADA had conditionally lifted a ban on RUSADA in September, with one of the conditions being the granting of access to thousands of samples at the tainted Moscow lab by the end of 2018.
But when a WADA team arrived last month, Russian authorities raised issues with the certification of their equipment under Russian law.
WADA officials finally gained access two weeks later and last week confirmed they had “successfully retrieved” all the data, leading the body’s president Craig Reedie to declare “a major breakthrough for clean sport”.
– ‘Up to 600 potential new cases’ –
For some like former WADA chief Dick Pound the fact that a deadline was missed was “not the end of the world” as “the real objective in all of this was to get access to the lab and the data”.
But WADA’s critics, like US anti-doping boss Travis Tygart, have slammed the agency’s handling of the process as “a total joke” and an “embarrassment”.
“No one is surprised this deadline was ignored and it’s time for WADA to stop being played by the Russians and immediately declare them non-compliant for failing yet again to meet the deadline,” he said.
The head of RUSADA has written to WADA pleading its case ahead of Tuesday’s verdict.
In a letter dated January 18 RUSADA director Yury Ganus said it was not his agency’s fault that the deadline was missed.
Ganus listed the various strides RUSADA had made to be fully reinstated following its suspension in 2016 over McLaren’s findings.
RUSADA had undergone “a profound transformation” and the new body “shares the values of clean sport,” he said.
Even if they escape a new ban, Russia are still not off the doping hook.
McLaren estimated up to “600” new doping cases could be unearthed in the Moscow lab’s samples.
He suggested the reason for the missed deadline was nothing to do with WADA “but a power struggle within Russia”.
WADA can expect further criticism from the likes of Travis should it decide to stop short of inflicting further sanctions on RUSADA, but not from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
In his New Year message, Bach insisted Russia had been sufficiently punished.
“With its suspension from the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, the Russian Olympic Committee has served its sanction,” he wrote.
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