LONDON (NEW YORK TIMES)- Russia has missed an end-of-year deadline to turn over data on its athletes to the global regulator of drugs in sports, raising the spectre of new penalties arising from a broad, state-supported cheating scandal in international competitions.
As a condition of lifting penalties that had largely barred Russia from hosting or participating in a range of international events because of cheating, it had pledged in September to deliver data from its corrupted anti-doping laboratory to the regulator, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
That data would conclusively prove which of its athletes had been doping as part of the state-sanctioned program that marred several major sporting events, including the Olympic Games.
Yet missing the deadline means Russia has failed to comply with Wada's request, putting pressure on the agency to reinstate the penalties, which a range of athletes and critics had said should have been maintained in the first place.
The back-and-forth over the data has demonstrated Russia's strength and, to a number of those who support clean sport, Wada's weakness. The agency did not comment on Monday (Dec 31), but officials had privately accepted that Russia would miss the deadline.
"The world is watching," Callum Skinner, a British Olympic cyclist, wrote on Twitter. "This is huge for athlete welfare and clean sport."
A team from the Montreal-based anti-doping organisation sent to Moscow to retrieve the data returned empty-handed after Russian authorities, citing local regulations, refused to clear the equipment they had brought to the country. Wada said Russia had not questioned the equipment at a meeting to prepare for the event.
Russian officials have said they have now cleared the team to re-enter the country, a visit that if carried out would fall beyond the deadline but before a critical meeting on Jan 14, when Wada's Compliance Review Committee will make a recommendation to its board over what action should be taken.
Should Russia not be punished for missing the deadline, Wada's growing army of critics, including the US Anti-Doping Agency and a new movement of predominantly Western athletes, is likely to sharpen its attacks.
"The situation is a total joke and an embarrassment for Wada and the global anti-doping system," Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said as news that the deadline would be missed circulated.
"No one is surprised this deadline was ignored, and it's time for Wada to stop being played by the Russians and immediately declare them non-compliant for failing yet again to meet the deadline. We hold athletes strictly accountable, so states that intentionally rob clean athletes and corrupt the Olympic values should also be held accountable."
Russia had not fulfilled all the criteria Wada had initially demanded before it was reinstated to international sport in September. The agency's officials believed then that a new pathway that included the commitment to provide the data by a set deadline would help Russia move past scandal and finally identify the athletes - likely in the hundreds - who benefited from the doping program.
The missed deadline is also the latest humiliation for Wada's embattled president, Craig Reedie. In November, Reedie, a British sports official and a member of the International Olympic Committee, said it was "inconceivable" that Russia would miss the deadline.
Sebastian Samuelsson, an Olympic silver medal winner in biathlon, said on Twitter on Monday that Wada's decision to reinstate Russia's anti-doping agency, known as Rusada, in September without all criteria met was "a devastating blow for athletes."
"It is important Wada starts protecting clean athletes and not cheaters," Samuelsson said. "If not I have a hard time to even see a future for Wada."
New rules adopted in April mean sanctions for failure to comply are much clearer now than they were when Russia's doping program was first unmasked. Sports federations, many reliant on Russian largesse, will not have flexibility in deciding which measures they can take.
The potential scale of a looming punishment has rattled Russian anti-doping officials who, at least publicly, appear to be at odds with the government over how to handle the situation. Last week, Rusada's head, Yuri Ganus, pleaded with President Vladimir Putin to bring an end to the crisis, and issued a warning that Russia is "on the brink of abyss."
"I ask you to protect the present and future of our fair sport, present and future generations of athletes," Ganus said in a video message to Putin, who continues to deny the cheating scandal was orchestrated by the state.
The missing data is essential to cross-check leaked details sent to Wada with profiles of about 10,000 suspicious doping samples from Russia. The underlying data that Wada hopes to extract from Russia will show how many of those 10,000 cases will lead to athletes having cases to answer.
Some Wada officials are privately concerned that Russia could succeed with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if the ban is reimposed.
"Are you going to declare them non-compliant if they are compliant?" said a person familiar with the matter.