Doping: Russian reforms progressing, says Wada

GLASGOW (AFP) - There is "light at the end of the tunnel" in the campaign to reform Russia's anti-doping procedures, the World Anti-doping Agency's (Wada) deputy director-general Rob Koehler said on Sunday (Nov 20).

"I think we're on the right track. There's light at the end of the tunnel," Mr Koehler said during Wada's foundation board meeting in Glasgow.

But Mr Koehler noted that Wada is still being denied "access to some closed cities" and that tests carried out by Britain's anti-doping agency, though completed in good conditions, had been limited.

Mr Koehler said his teams did not have access to samples stored at Russia's anti-doping laboratory in Moscow as they have effectively been sealed off as part of a Russian federal investigation.

But he hailed the creation of Russia's new anti-doping commission, authorised by Russian President Vladimir Putin to shake up the country's anti-doping programme. Mr Putin has axed Deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh and Ms Natalia Zhelanova, adviser to former sports minister Vitali Mutko.

Both were cited in Wada's McLaren report due to their presumed roles in Russia's vast doping scandal. However, Mr Koehler said that the Russian sports ministry had not accepted the conclusions of the McLaren report, claiming certain details had been "falsified".

Mr Vitali Smirnov, chairman of the new Russian anti-doping commission, said the Russian Anti-doping Agency (Rusada) had excluded state representatives from its executive committee. He also said the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow was now under the control of Moscow State University, rather than the sports ministry.

"There is no state doping in Russia," said Mr Smirnov, who was Russian sports minister between 1981 and 1990. "If people have made mistakes, that doesn't mean everyone has made mistakes."

Mr Dick Pound, Wada president from 1999 to 2007, said Russia needs to "recognise the problem" if it is to make progress.

"You can't cure an alcoholic until the alcoholic acknowledges that there is a problem," the Canadian told reporters. "You've got to take on the fact that there is or was a problem."

The first part of the McLaren report, commissioned by Wada after revelations from the former boss of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, was published on July 18.

Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found evidence of a government-backed scheme in Russia said to include tampering with doping tests at their home Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

It led to a ban on Russian athletes from international competition, including this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The second report is due to be published on Dec 9. Russia has denied accusations of state-sanctioned doping and is fighting to get back into international athletics.