The World Anti-Doping Agency has been accused of “failing clean athletes” by its own vice-president after it controversially lifted the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s suspension yesterday.
Norwegian politician Linda Helleland was one of only two members on WADA’s 12-strong executive committee to reject a compromise deal to reinstate RUSADA at a meeting in the Seychelles.
The Russian agency and its Moscow laboratory were suspended in November 2015 when their central roles in Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme were first revealed by a WADA-sponsored investigation. A second WADA-funded investigation in 2016 broadened the scandal, plunging Olympic and Paralympic sport into a crisis it is still wrestling with.
In a statement, Helleland, who had announced on Tuesday that she would vote to uphold RUSADA’s ban as the Russian authorities had still not met the last two criteria on a “roadmap to compliance” agreed in 2016, said the decision to reinstate “casts a dark shadow over the credibility of the anti-doping movement”.
Claiming it was “wrong to welcome RUSADA back until they had fully and transparently met the roadmap”, Helleland said the decision “defied the wishes” of athletes, national anti-doping agencies and sports authorities, adding: “Today, we failed the clean athletes of the world.”
WADA president Sir Craig Reedie, however, welcomed the decision as a common-sense solution to gridlock on the roadmap.
“Today, the great majority of WADA’s ExCo members decided to reinstate RUSADA as compliant with the code subject to strict conditions, upon recommendation by the agency’s independent (Compliance Review Committee) and in accordance with an agreed process.
“This decision provides a clear timeline by which WADA must be given access to the former Moscow laboratory data and samples with a clear commitment by the ExCo that should this timeline not be met, the ExCo would support the CRC’s recommendation to reinstate non-compliance.”
The Scot’s remarks relate to the two sticking points that Russia has stubbornly refused to budge on: public acceptance of the findings of the 2016 investigation by Richard McLaren and allowing independent access to the Moscow lab which has been sealed by the Russian authorities while they conduct a criminal investigation.
The deal allows Russia to limit its “mea culpa” to certain individuals inside the system and maintain control over how the lab’s secrets are accessed.
Reedie believes these compromises now give WADA “a clear timeline” for access to the lab data and stored samples, and effectively puts Russia on the clock. It must hand over the lab’s analytical data to “an independent expert agreeable to both WADA and the Russian authorities” no later than 31 December.
If that data suggests there may be individual doping cases to answer, RUSADA would then have until 30 June 2019, to provide the relevant stored samples for re-analysis.
RUSADA is also subject to an audit within four months’ time to check it is compliant with the rest of WADA’s rules.
“Today, we are in a much better position,” former British Olympic Association chairman Reedie added.
“WADA understands this decision will not please everybody. When cheating is as rampant and as organised as it was in Russia, as was definitively established thanks to investigations commissioned by WADA, it undermines so much of what sport stands for.
“Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals. It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders.”
United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said the decision was “a devastating blow to the world’s clean athletes”.
In a statement, he said: “By ripping up the very ‘roadmap’ it created, WADA’s decision to reinstate Russia despite the nation not having met the two remaining conditions is bewildering and inexplicable.
“In its landmark meeting today, WADA sent one clear message to the world: we put the wishes of a small handful of sports administrators above the rights of millions of clean athletes and the dreams of billions of sports fans.”
Britain’s double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson tweeted: “So Craig Reedie got his way and let the cheats back, with them having not even paying lip service to the sanctions.
“On behalf of all those who love sport and fair play. Thank you. How is this allowed to happen #sadday4sport.”
UK Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead had voiced her frustration at the rush to reinstate RUSADA. In a statement yesterday, she said the outcome was “deeply troubling” and added that WADA had “cast aside its responsibilities to clean athletes, sports fans and those who work tirelessly for clean sport”.
She had hoped WADA would postpone the decision until its next meeting in November to allow further consultation but it is understood Reedie voted to deal with the matter yesterday when his ExCo colleagues were tied 5-5 on waiting.
Sapstead added: “This meeting was an opportunity to postpone this decision to give all relevant parties enough time to put forward their views. We cannot understand the urgency to make a decision.”