Doping ban on Russia to stay in place

Winter Olympics participation in the hands of IOC, Wada says two key criteria not met by Moscow

SEOUL • The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) maintained its suspension of Russia yesterday, raising the spectre of a possible ban from February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Wada's foundation board, meeting in Seoul, came to the decision after its compliance review committee recommended that Russia's anti-doping body, Rusada, "should not be reinstated".

The decision had been expected after Russia refused to admit running a state-sponsored doping system, as detailed in an investigation for Wada by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.

Wada has told Russia to "publicly accept" the report's findings and allow access to urine samples at its Moscow anti-doping laboratory, among its key demands.

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov admitted that the country's anti-doping system had failed, but he said officials at Rusada and their Moscow laboratory were to blame.

"We accept the fact our national anti-doping system has failed... (but) we absolutely deny a state-sponsored doping system," Zhukov told the Wada meeting, echoing previous denials.

He added that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren report "is impossible".

Wada president Craig Reedie said Rusada has made improvements.

But he added: "Having set a road map for compliance, there are two issues that have to be fulfilled and we can't walk away from the commitments."

Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritius had also been found non-compliant by the board.

Wada's reiteration of Russia's non-compliance is likely to add more pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian athletes from next year's Winter Games. The IOC decision is expected to be taken next month in Lausanne.

Russia escaped a blanket ban at last year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but its Paralympic and track and field teams remain barred from international events.

The IOC banned six cross-country skiers this month as part of an investigation into allegations of widespread doping and sample-tampering by laboratory and security officials at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

"Wada's decision to maintain suspension on Russia anti-doping agency doesn't directly decide whether the country can participate in the Games," said Nancy Park, a spokesman for the Pyeongchang organising committee. "It is a sensitive issue, and we are waiting for IOC's official decision for now."

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov pointed to the improvements within Rusada, and insisted it was independent of state control as he pleaded for the agency to be reinstated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the allegations were an attempt to sow discontent ahead of the country's presidential elections.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Doping ban on Russia to stay in place'. Print Edition | Subscribe