The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) yesterday voted, subject to certain conditions, to lift a ban on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which was suspended following allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping.
“Today, the great majority of the WADA executive committee decided to reinstate RUSADA as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code, subject to strict conditions,” said WADA president Craig Reedie, who had faced widespread criticism before the widely expected decision.
RUSADA was suspended in November 2015, when a WADA report found top athletes could take banned drugs with near-impunity, as RUSADA and the national laboratory would cover for them.
Later investigations found evidence that dirty samples were switched for clean ones when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The reinstatement of RUSADA had been championed by Reedie, who softened two key conditions for Russia, and the move has the tacit backing of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
However, despite a recommendation for reinstatement from a key WADA committee, it has provoked anger from other anti-doping figures who feel Russia cannot be trusted to reform without accepting more of the blame.
Athletes on one of WADA’s commissions, Russian doping whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov and WADA vice president Linda Helleland lead the opposition.
“I am afraid that by opting for the easiest way out, it will ultimately hurt WADA in the future,” said Helleland, a Norwegian politician who is eyeing a bid to replace Reedie as the organization’s president.
On Wednesday, the IOC athletes’ commission came out in favor of reinstatement, but that of the IAAF came out against, along with athletes from USA Swimming.
Reedie softened his stance on Russia “in the spirit of compromise,” as he wrote to Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov in June.
That means dropping a demand for Russia to accept a report that accused the state of directing doping, and instead allowing it to accept an IOC document with milder conclusions.
Reedie deemed it satisfactory after Kolobkov wrote that he “fully accepted” the IOC report and Russia would not be expected to make any public statement or address exactly who in the vast state sports structure was to blame.
Critical of the move toward reinstating RUSADA, Rodchenkov said Russia’s priority is “protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”
Reedie also accepted that Russia can be reinstated without providing some key evidence from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the allegations.
Instead, Russia promises to deliver it only after it has been reinstated.
Russian authorities have not changed their argument that the main guilty party was Rodchenkov.
Russian law enforcement has alleged that he tricked clean Russian athletes into taking drugs for unclear reasons, then faked evidence of abuses at the Sochi Olympics.
Rodchenkov is in hiding in the US, while other whistle-blowers, like runners Yulia Stepanova and Andrei Dmitriev, have been vilified at home after reporting abuses by teammates.
They have said they were forced to leave Russia for their own safety.
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