RUSADA escapes further suspension as Reedie claims victory for clean sport
Various - 22 Jan 2019
By Callum Murray
RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, today escaped a further suspension from the World Anti-Doping Agency after missing a deadline of 31 December, 2018 to allow access by a WADA inspection team to the former Moscow laboratory that is at the centre of Russia’s long-running doping scandal.
However, WADA resolved to maintain the conditions it placed on RUSADA’s reinstatement when it made the controversial decision to end its suspension in September last year.
The decision is unlikely to satisfy critics of WADA who insisted that RUSADA should have been suspended (or declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code, to use WADA’s own phrase) as soon as the deadline for allowing access to the lab was missed.
However, Craig Reedie, WADA’s president told a media conference call in the wake of today’s announcement: “WADA was under constant pressure by people who clearly want to punish Russia for previous wrongdoing. However, as a regulator, WADA is supposed to work towards people being compliant, not permanently non-complaint. I accept people’s right to criticise, although every now and then it gets wearing. But the outcome justifies the decision. Clean sport will be in a better position than before.”
Today’s decision was made unanimously by the 11 members of WADA’s executive committee, acting on a recommendation from its independent compliance review committee.
Jonathan Taylor, the UK lawyer who chairs the committee, added that signatories of the code are usually given up to three months to correct cases of non-compliance, saying: “The rules say that signatories should be given every opportunity to correct non-conformities, even if it’s after the deadline. In fact, Russia got less time than others.”
However, although the recommendation was unanimously approved by the executive committee, WADA noted that Linda Helleland, the Norwegian politician who is a candidate to take over the WADA presidency from Reedie at elections later this year, “maintained her position from September that RUSADA should have been asserted as non-compliant until the process was complete.”
Helleland lost her position in the Norwegian government today, but Olivier Niggli, WADA’s director general, said that that event “does not impact on her position in WADA.”
In a statement today, Reedie said: “Today, the ExCo was pleased to hear of the significant progress that has been made in resolving the Russian doping matter since its decision in September last year to reinstate RUSADA under strict conditions. Collecting the all-important data is a critical step, and it was not easy to achieve. We are not yet at the finishing line and there is a lot more to do but undeniably we are much further along the track than we would have been without the September ExCo decision.
“We are now proceeding to the second phase of that decision, namely authenticating the data retrieved from the former Moscow Laboratory so that ultimately we can use them to catch more athletes who cheated and to exonerate others. We will not be deterred from this mission, which we firmly believe is in the best interests of clean sport and of athletes worldwide.”
Last week, WADA announced that it had successfully retrieved data from the laboratory in Moscow, which it said are “crucial to build strong cases against cheats and exonerate other athletes suspected of having participated in widespread doping” in Russia.
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.
Asked in today’s media conference whether he felt vindicated by finally gaining access to the data, Reedie responded: “We must be cautious to apply the processes we’ve put in place. Those processes have been agreed by the whole anti-doping world. We knew it was complicated and would take time, but we have moved forward. I am very pleased that this degree of progress has been made. If you think I’m vindicated, I’m pleased.”
RUSADA’s reinstatement remains subject to the following conditions, imposed in September:
1. “WADA to conduct a compliance audit of RUSADA’s operations within four months of reinstatement.
2. “RUSADA and the Russian authorities to procure that the authentic Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) data and underlying analytical data relating to the testing procedures carried out by the former Moscow Laboratory are received by WADA by 31 December 2018.
3. “Following WADA’s review of the data, RUSADA and the Russian authorities to procure that any re-analysis that is required by WADA of any of the samples that are still stored at the Moscow Laboratory is completed by a WADA-accredited laboratory by 30 June 2019.”
WADA added that it will “continue monitoring RUSADA to ensure that it is effective, robust and independent in its operational decisions and activities; that it demonstrates good governance, accountability and transparency; and that it operates in an environment that is free from undue external influence.”