Trust issues even if Russia gets Rio nod

Ex-Wada head says it will be hard to believe the country has solved its doping problems

LONDON • The former World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) president Dick Pound believes it will be "very hard" to trust any Russian athlete at the Rio Olympics in August, if the country succeeds in overturning its ban from international competition.

His comments on Thursday were supported by the women's marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe, who said she remains "very suspicious" of Russia's claims that it has solved its doping problems.

"We're all suspicious that they can do what they need to do to assure us the entire team is clean to compete fairly in Rio," she said.

Pound chaired the independent commission that investigated claims of systemic doping in Russian athletics, a process that started when whistle-blowers told the German broadcaster ARD about the scale of Russia's cheating in late 2014, and finished with the country being thrown out of the sport last November.

Since then, a Wada "task force" has been sent to overhaul Russia's anti-doping system in an attempt to bring the country back into the fold in time for the Olympics.

A decision on its return will be made by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), at a meeting of its 27-member council in Vienna on June 17.

TOUGH CALL FOR COE

My guess is there will be lots of pressure on him to find a way to have the Russians in Rio.

DICK POUND, former Wada president, on the tough situation IAAF chief Sebastian Coe is facing ahead of a council meeting to decide Russia's Olympic status.

But Pound, who had suggested that Russia was just "re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic", remains sceptical that it has acted quickly enough to fix its problems.

Speaking at the Sport Resolutions Conference in London, the 74-year-old Canadian said: "When we delivered our report back in November, we said they could get back in if they went full speed ahead to do the job properly.

"There will be a lot of pressure to get them back in and, from a system point of view, it would be nice to have everybody at the Games. But whether that makes sense, in terms of the changes they've made, remains to be seen. I think there's still some elements of denial (in Russia)."

Pound believes IAAF chief Sebastian Coe is under mounting pressure to find a way for suspended Russian track and field athletes to compete in Rio.

"They are talking but they are not actually moving," he said. "Wada has a role, my guess is they will not be in a position to say that Rusada is compliant, so the pressure will be on Seb Coe and the IAAF.

"I don't know where they stand with their task force but my guess is there will be lots of pressure on him to find a way to have the Russians in Rio."

Pound added that if he were in charge of the International Olympic Committee, he would find it difficult to say with complete conviction that any Russian athlete at Rio would be clean.

He said: "Are we absolutely certain that every Russian athlete isn't doping and everything has changed? I think it's very hard to say that."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Trust issues even if Russia gets Rio nod'. Print Edition | Subscribe