Olympics: Wada says Russia still not compliant on anti-doping even as IOC may lift suspension soon

Russia was formally banned in December 2017 from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics, but 168 athletes deemed "clean" were allowed to compete as neutrals. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) stopped short on Sunday (Feb 25) of endorsing the International Olympic Committee's decision to lift Russia's suspension, if no new positive drug tests come to light from the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.

In a statement issued on Sunday night, Wada said it "acknowledges" the IOC's latest move but pointed out that Russia is still not adhering to the World Anti-Doping Code.

"It should be clarified that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code as it has not yet met the necessary criteria of Rusada's Roadmap to Compliance, following Russia's proven systemic manipulation of the doping control process," Wada said.

The agency said it is continuing to work with "Rusada to assist them in rebuilding a credible and sustainable anti-doping programme".

The IOC voted unanimously to keep Russia's ban for mass doping, meaning Russian athletes were not able to march behind their flag at the Pyeongchang Olympics closing ceremonies on Sunday.

But the IOC said the suspension would be lifted - in "a few days or a few weeks" - if no new doping cases come out of the Games, where two Russians tested positive for doping.

The vote to maintain the ban for the time being followed a recommendation from the IOC's executive board, which met on Saturday and early on Sunday over Russia's fate.

The IOC "could have considered lifting the suspension given that the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) had respected the IOC's decision of Dec 5", IOC president Thomas Bach said.

"However, two Russian athletes tested positive for doping here in Pyeongchang."

The IOC decision was slammed by the lawyer for Russian whistle-blower and former Moscow drug lab director Grigory Rodchenkov.

"Thomas Bach was a drowning man," Jim Walden said at the weekend.

"But finally cooler heads within the IOC threw him a life preserver. Yet in the decision, the IOC had the gall to claim Russia 'respected' its decision on Dec 5 to institute the suspension.

"This, despite Russia's continued retaliation against the IOC's main witness, Dr Rodchenkov, and Russia's litany of further transgressions, including denial and obstruction toward the IOC and Wada.

"The acrimony caused by Bach's mismanagement should be his undoing."

Russia was formally banned in December from taking part in the 2018 Olympics following revelations of widespread drug-cheating, but 168 athletes deemed "clean" were allowed to compete as neutrals.

They were representing the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" under strict guidelines including a ban on Russia's flag, national colours and the national anthem.

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