WADA: ‘The ball is in Russia’s court’

Russia faces “a number of challenges” before it can be readmitted to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s program, the drug-testing body says.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was suspended for non-compliance a year ago, with the country having been accused of widespread, state-sponsored doping practices in an independent report by former WADA president Dick Pound.

It meant Russia’s 68-man strong track and field team was forced to miss August’s Rio 2016 Olympics, while then Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was also banned from attending the event.

“Some progress has been made by RUSADA in its efforts to regain compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code,” a WADA spokesperson told CNN.

“There remain, however, a number of challenges with the Russian anti-doping program that need to be addressed in order for RUSADA to regain code compliance.”

WADA said it has installed two international experts in Russia to ensure RUSADA can operate independently.

“WADA has provided RUSADA with a roadmap that it must follow in order to become re-compliant with the code,” the spokesperson added.

“With regards to how quickly that can happen, the ball is in RUSADA’s court.”

On Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new law to criminalize any encouragement for doping, national news agency Tass reported.

Anyone found guilty of inducing an athlete to use drugs faces a fine of up to 1.1 million rubles ($11,400) or a jail term of up to three years, plus suspension from “professional activities” for up to five years, depending on the circumstances.

Off mic

On Sunday, WADA director general Olivier Niggli was caught off microphone at a press conference in Scotland telling newly re-elected president Craig Reedie that he’s not keen to re-admit Russia.

In a conversation filmed by Russia Today, Niggli said: “It’s good to say we’re working with Russia, but don’t give the impression that we’re rushing.”

“No, no,” Reedie answered.

“I think be patient and … we want them to get back, but not under any condition. Just be careful,” Niggli said.

“Yeah, but I can be encouraging with (Vitaly) Smirnov (Russia’s Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission’s head),” Reedie replied.

“Yeah, but not too much … We aren’t desperate for them (Russia) to come back,” Niggli stressed. “They can come back if they do the right thing,” he added.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the comments as “dirty statements.”

“These are sports officials representing world sports that should be beyond politics but is always involved in it,” she wrote on her Facebook page, Tass reported.

“From now on, we will compare every word uttered by these gentlemen with their deeds to make sure they do not contradict each other.”

Denial

Russia has consistently denied accusations of state-sponsored doping, and Smirnov — a former International Olympic Committee member — reiterated this stance at last weekend’s WADA Foundation Board meeting.

“Doping is not the problem of one specific country. We have to fight this evil together,” he reportedly told delegates.

WADA had called for a blanket ban of the Russian team at the Rio Olympics after a report in July by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren accused Russia of orchestrating a state-sponsored, four-year doping regime.

However, the International Olympic Committee ruled that individual sporting federations would decide if their Russian athletes could take part.

Reedie was re-elected, unopposed, by WADA’s foundation board in Glasgow despite criticism by some members over his calls for a total ban on Russia in Rio.

“It might not look like it, but we are making real progress now,” Reedie told the UK Press Association. “I am not walking away.”

More scrutiny to come?

Russia’s anti-doping practices may come under renewed scrutiny next month when McLaren publishes his final doping report on December 9, which will look at winter sports.

The IOC announced on Monday it was retroactively disqualifying 12 athletes, including seven medal winners, from the 2012 London Olympics following re-analysis of stored samples.

All of the athletes hail from countries that used to form part of the Soviet Union. Four are from Russia, including women’s 3000-meter steeplechase gold medalist Yuliya Zaripova, who tested positive for the banned steroid turinabol.

Zaripova had already been given a backdated ban in 2015 for irregularities in her biological passport, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport disqualified all her results between July 2011 and July 2013.

Also disqualified were nine weightlifters, one men’s hammer thrower and one long jumper.

Last week, the IOC said it was sanctioning 16 athletes from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after retesting their doping samples.

In July, the IOC announced 45 athletes had tested positive at London and Beijing.

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