(ATR) The World Anti-Doping Agency says Russia’s drug testing program is still not complying with international standards.
Meeting in Seoul, South Korea, the WADA Foundation Board rendered its decision Thursday, a move that will have implications for the participation of Russian athletes at the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next February.
At issue was whether the Russian Anti-Doping Agency known as RUSADA should be accepted again as the standardbearer for drug testing in Russia.
WADA suspended RUSADA in late 2015 after reports that the Russian anti-doping program was riddled with corruption and manipulation. In 2016, a Russian doctor who worked in the drug lab for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi turned whistleblower, describing a secret process to manipulate the drug testing samples of Russian athletes during those games.
Russia finished first in the medals table at Sochi with 33 medals, the most ever for Russia at the Winter Olympics. This month the IOC stripped two of those medals and more may be ahead.
The big question still to be decided is whether Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in February in PyeongChang at the Olympics or at the Paralympics that follow in March.
A statement from a spokesperson says the IOC will take steps to protect the ability of clean Russian athletes to compete.
“The IOC is aware of the decision of the WADA Foundation Board not to reinstate RUSADA. The decision of the IOC Executive Board in December will take all the circumstances, including all the measures to ensure a level-playing field at the Olympic Winter Games 2018, into consideration when it decides on the participation of the Russian athletes in PyeongChang,” says the IOC statement.
The IOC Executive Board meets December 5-7 in Lausanne where a decision is expected on the status of Russia at the Winter Games.
In 2016 the IOC ruled that Russian athletes would be allowed to participate at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as long as they were certified as doping free by the respective international federation.
However the International Paralympic Committee banned Russian athletes outright from Rio.
Pavel Kolobkov, Russian sports minister.
Pavel Kolobkov, Minister of Sports of the Russian Federation, traveled to Korea to plead the case for reinstatement. It is the first time the board has heard on appeal from Russia since 2015 when RUSADA was first deemed non-compliant.
“WADA acknowledged that Russia has accomplished a tremendous amount of work to reform the anti-doping system in sport. This progress is obvious to all,” says the minister.
“We still have to continue to work, but we are determined to fight and defend our case. We spoke at the WADA Executive Committee for the first time in three years. All
the responsible people heard our arguments. We believe that Russia has fulfilled all the criteria which depended on us and were spelled out in the road map in order to restore the Russian anti-doping agency.
“We applied to each of the members of the Executive Committee, we have known each other for many years. Among them are the presidents of sports federations with whom we have repeatedly held international tournaments. They listened to us very carefully.
“I want to emphasize that the non-restoration of RUSADA does not in any way affect the participation or non-participation of the Russian team at the Olympics in Pyeongchang. The Foundation Board, as well as we, believes that clean athletes should take part in the Olympics. All our athletes have been tested by foreign anti-doping organizations for the past two years. The percentage of positive samples last year was 0.6% and 0.4% - in this. This is much less than in other countries.
“We will continue our work in the anti-doping field, RUSADA will remain a completely independent agency. We will fight for our athletes, for Russian sport - I guarantee this as the Minister of Sport and as an athlete, as an Olympic champion," says Kolobkov. As a fencer for Russia, Kolobkov won six medals at the Olympics between 1998 and 2004.
Reported by Ed Hula.
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