LONDON • The Russian Anti-Doping Association (Rusada) has "completely changed" and is now a "very efficient and good anti-doping organisation". This is the assessment of World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director general Olivier Niggli in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
Speaking after the body decided to take no further action against Rusada on Tuesday for missing the Dec 31 deadline to allow access to the Moscow laboratory at the centre of alleged state-sponsored doping, he insisted things were moving in the right direction after years of the Russians dragging their feet.
Wada conditionally lifted a ban on Rusada in September last year, a decision roundly criticised by several athletes and United States anti-doping chief Travis Tygart, with one of the conditions being Wada allowed access to thousands of samples at the tainted Moscow lab.
But when a Wada team arrived last month, Russian authorities raised issues with the certification of their equipment, which led to the delay before the data was finally extracted earlier this month.
However, Niggli felt Wada was right not to impose further sanctions even if the decision was not "universally popular".
Touching on Rusada's "transformation" as one of the positives to emerge from the affair, he said: "It's a new organisation. This is a very promising thing going forward because having a good anti-doping system in Russia is what everybody needs. That's the key to the future."
As for the analysis of the data, Niggli said Wada would know only "in a few months" but feared there could potentially be several hundred doping cases, adding: "What we need now is to see if the further data we got, the raw data will back up what we already have and will provide sufficient evidence so that these cases can be prosecuted."
The lawyer also insisted Wada had learnt a lot from the scandal and were now better equipped.
Calling on critics like Tygart, who took umbrage with Tuesday's announcement, to lay off, he said: "I hope it will stop. I hope people will realise all we have done so far is to strive to get this data so we can get justice and get to the bottom of it.
"People have to understand there is a process to be followed... We are the regulator. If we deviate from our role just to satisfy the impatience of some, this is not going to take us forward."
But German Olympic supremo Alfons Hormann, who yesterday slammed the Russian let-off as "difficult to support", claimed the decision "did not help to strengthen faith in Wada and the worldwide fight against doping".
Wada's decision is the latest chapter in a saga that surfaced with Richard McLaren's 2016 report detailing doping in the country from 2011-15 involving more than 1,000 athletes from over 30 sports.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA