The saga continues: WADA expert team to return to Moscow lab
A new chapter was added to the saga of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s attempts to gain access to the Moscow anti-doping laboratory at the centre of the country’s doping scandal with an announcement this afternoon that WADA’s expert team is to travel back to Russia.
WADA said that the three-person team would arrive on “9 January to access and extract data from the Laboratory Information Management System and the underlying analytical data generated by the former Moscow Laboratory.”
The announcement comes after Russia controversially missed a deadline of 31 December to open to lab for access, with WADA saying: “Access to, and subsequent authentication and analysis of, the data remains crucial in order to build strong cases against cheats and exonerate other athletes suspected of having participated in widespread doping on the basis of previous WADA-backed investigations led by Richard W. Pound and Professor Richard H. McLaren.”
WADA said that the deadline was missed “due to an issue raised by the Russian authorities in relation to the certification of the equipment under Russian law. That issue has since been resolved by the Russian authorities.”
WADA has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks over its decision to provisionally lift its suspension of RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, despite not having gained access to the lab (one of the conditions for RUSADA’s reinstatement).
In particular, WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee has been strongly criticised by athletes and others for not reimposing the suspension immediately, but instead waiting for a scheduled meeting on 14 January.
However, Jonathan Taylor, the UK-based lawyer who chairs the CRC, said in today’s statement: “When the International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories (ISCCS) was drafted, all stakeholders were very keen to ensure that declaring a Signatory non-compliant was a last resort, to be pursued only after the Signatory has been given every opportunity to comply and failed to take them.
“The process set out in the Standard, which came into force in April 2018, duly reflects that strong stakeholder sentiment. As a result, the CRC regularly receives late information from Signatories ahead of its meetings, which may or may not demonstrate compliance with the outstanding requirements.
“It will treat this case no differently, reviewing in detail all information submitted by: RUSADA and the Russian authorities; the WADA audit team that visited RUSADA mid-December; the WADA extraction expert teams; and WADA’s internal Compliance Taskforce. It will then make its recommendation to the WADA ExCo, entirely independently and without any outside influence, as we have always done.”
Craig Reedie, WADA’s president, added: “While WADA is obliged under the ISCCS to give every opportunity to RUSADA, we are continuing to act on the basis of the 31 December deadline having been missed, with all the consequences that failure could bring.
“This week’s mission to Moscow is not only about us following due process and precedent. If the mission is successful in acquiring the data, it will break a long impasse and will potentially lead to many cases being actioned. Regardless, in the short-term, the ExCo will be considering whether RUSADA should maintain Code-compliance status alongside anti-doping organizations of other major sporting nations that enjoy the same.”
In an open letter, athlete activist Sebastian Samuelsson, the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympics biathlon silver medallist, had accused Taylor of being “out of touch with athlete opinion and the public mood.”
The Moscow lab has been closed since the Russian doping scandal broke in 2015. It was alleged to have been part of a sophisticated conspiracy to open apparently sealed sample bottles and substitute clean urine for urine showing evidence of use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.Sportcal