(ATR) Former WADA chief Richard Pound says Russia faces a race against time to revamp its doping system, claiming there is "a wall of denial".
Former WADA chief Richard Pound (ATR)
Speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference in London on Wednesday, Pound suggested the Russian athletics federation and sporting authorities were not “devoting all their time and energy into getting where they ought to be”.
“Even with the presence of credible evidence, there was, and to some extent there still is a wall of denial,” he told conference delegates.
“There is some evidence that they’re just changing deckchairs on the Titanic.”
Russia was suspended by the IAAF in November after a report by WADA’s Independent Commission, chaired by Pound, revealed state-sponsored doping in the country as well as corruption and cover-ups involving leading sports officials.
The IOC member from Canada cast serious doubt on whether Russia would deliver the clean-up and reforms of its doping system demanded by the doping and athletics governing bodies to allow it to send a track and field team to the Olympics.
“The Russians seem to assume the controversy will disappear and there should be no question of their participation [at the Olympics] in Rio,” he said.
"My guess is Russia may not make it back for Rio,” Pound said. “The IAAF and WADA are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead.”
His remarks come a few days after German broadcaster ARD screened a documentary alleging that Russia is continuing to breach the IAAF and WADA’s anti-doping rules. Among its claims was that banned Russian coaches “continue to coach deep in the Russian provinces as if nothing had happened”.
Pound’s comments could set the tone for discussions about Russia at the IAAF Council meeting in Monaco on Friday. Rune Andersen, chair of the IAAF task force on Russian doping, will deliver his first report to members.
WADA president Craig Reedie also addressed the London conference on Wednesday.
"The public's confidence in sport was shattered in 2015 like never before,” the IOC vice president told delegates in the wake of the revelations about Russia in the WADA report. "The public mood has soured and there's a general feeling that they're all at it."
Reedie called on governments and sports governing bodies to invest more money in WADA’s activities to protect clean athletes.
"Here we are in sport awash with money, but I'm very perplexed there isn't more cash for anti-doping," he said. “If there are any governments here with their checkbooks, please come and see me."
Sharapova not alone in using meldonium (ATR)
Earlier this week, the former World No.1 tennis player Maria Sharapova revealed she had tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open. Pound yesterday described Sharapova and her team as “reckless beyond description”.
The performance-enhancing drug was on WADA’s monitoring list in 2015 before being declared a prohibited substance on Jan. 1, 2016.
A new report published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Tuesday claimed there was “an alarmingly high prevalence of meldonium use by athletes” at the Baku 2015 European Games.
It said 66 of the total 762 athlete urine samples analysed in pre-competition and during the Games tested positive for meldonium. If that figure were extrapolated to athletes from the seven competing countries where the drug was registered for medical use, around 114 athletes may have been using meldonium.
The drug’s use was detected in athletes competing in 15 of the 21 sports at the Games. Of the 48 athletes tested in canoeing and kayaking, 15 tested positive for meldonium – the most in any sport on the program.
The report said 13 medalists or competition winners – including six who won gold or placed first in their event – were taking meldonium at Baku 2015.
Analysis from the European Olympic Committee medical commission, chaired by Klaus Steinbach – a co-author of the report - contributed to WADA's decision to place meldonium on the WADA Prohibited Substances list for 2016.
EOC president Patrick Hickey said in a statement that the European Olympic body had a zero tolerance policy on doping.
“We take every opportunity we can to strike a blow in the war on drugs in sport,” he said.
“Baku 2015 was the inaugural edition of the European Games, but we knew that our anti-doping program had to be of the highest standard from the outset. It is gratifying to know that the hard work of the EOC Medical Commission last summer is having a lasting positive impact in protecting the clean athletes of the world.”
WADA’s Independent Observer program report had praised the EOC for the “technical proficiency” and “innovative aspects” of the Baku  anti-doping program “especially in light of the fact that this was the first such event under the authority of the EOC.”
Reported by Mark Bisson
For general comments or questions, click here.
20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.