Russia face uphill task to be at Rio: Pound

LONDON • Russian athletics is not devoting "enough energy" to rid itself of doping and has a "steep hill" to climb if it wants to compete at this year's Olympics, according to Dick Pound, the investigator whose probe into Russian track and field led to the country being suspended from international competition.

"My guess is that Russia may not make it back for Rio. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead," the Canadian told an anti-doping conference in London.

His comments came ahead of a two-day meeting of the IAAF in Monaco where Russia's participation in the Rio Games is to be discussed.

Pound's intervention was made on a day when Craig Reedie, the president of Wada, revealed that his organisation had lined up two investigators who were ready to go to Russia to set up a new anti-doping unit.

But the former Wada president warned that time was running out for the country to comply with Wada's code. "Wada compliance with the code is mandatory for the Olympic Games," he said. "Right now, Russian athletics is on the outside trying to get back in. The onus is on it to justify any readmission."

On Sunday, a German TV documentary claimed that little had changed in Russian athletics since the country was banned in November. The programme showed undercover recordings of coaches dealing in performance-enhancing drugs and alleged that the new head of the Russian anti-doping agency Rusada, Anna Anzelovich, had previously informed athletes about dates for doping tests. Anzelovich has yet to comment.

Speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference, Pound also called for further independent commissions to look into countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, adding: "A lot of these countries are ripe for investigation."

However, Reedie warned that without greater funding, his organisation would have to "choose its battles". He added: "If evidence comes to light about other Russian sports and other countries, we will investigate. However if full-blown investigations are to become the norm, we must understand that further funding is needed."

Reedie also admitted that he felt sport faced an unprecedented challenge because of the extent of cheating. "It would be true to say that the public's confidence in sport was shattered in 2015 like never before," he added. "The public's mood has soured and there is a general feeling that they are all at it."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Russia face uphill task to be at Rio: Pound'. Print Edition | Subscribe