Athletics: Doping agency says Russians are being tested despite Ukraine war

Wada director-general Olivier Niggli said the Russian invasion would not affect Wada’s assessment of whether to allow Rusada back into its fold. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LAUSANNE – World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director-general Olivier Niggli has said that Russian competitors are still being tested despite their disappearance from global view after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The idea that the Russians are not being tested now is false,” he said in an interview at Wada’s Lausanne headquarters.

“They are being tested now.”

However, he also said the reinstatement of the Russian anti-doping agency Rusada – suspended in the wake of a massive doping and corruption scandal – was “complicated” because it was currently impossible to send Wada officials to Moscow to make a first-hand assessment.

Athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus are currently banned from international competition in response to the invasion.

But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it is examining a “pathway” to allow athletes from those two countries to take part in the 2024 Olympics, a suggestion that has been greeted with dismay by Ukraine.

The head of the Paris Olympics organising committee has said the IOC would have the “last word” on whether athletes from Russian and Belarus will be allowed to compete.

The possible involvement of Russians in the Paris Games also puts into sharp focus the issue of doping.

Wada in 2019 banned Russia from major sports events for four years after finding doping data handed over from its Moscow laboratory had been manipulated.

That data was supposed to be provided as part of Rusada’s reinstatement in the wake of the massive doping and corruption scandal, in which evidence was found of state-sponsored Russian doping between 2011 and 2015.

Wada had said in December it would consider the reinstatement of Rusada after two years of non-compliance.

Niggli said the invasion would not affect Wada’s assessment of whether to allow Rusada back into its fold.

“The armed conflict... is not supposed to influence the anti-doping work we have done,” he said. “We follow a process which is in place... which should function whether there is a war or not. This is where it gets a little complicated.”

To confirm that anti-doping measures are being followed and that the information Rusada was putting out was correct, it was necessary to send people to Moscow, which was not possible in the current circumstances.

“We cannot send people to do an audit in Moscow, for reasons that are understandable. Therefore today, we are not in a position to have all the answers,” Niggli added.

He also said anti-doping tests were usually carried out throughout the year and reassured that Russian athletes are being tested despite their ban on participating in international events. AFP

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