The Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency has endorsed the findings of its Compliance Review Committee that Russia should not be sanctioned again, despite missing what had been said to be a hard deadline of December 31st to allow access to Moscow laboratories.
The CRC’s recommendation was noted and endorsed without dissent by the 11 members of ExCo who were on a conference call yesterday. Vice-President Linda Helleland noted for the record that she maintained her position from September that RUSADA should have been asserted as non-compliant until the process was complete.
The CRC accepted that access had been granted and substantial material obtained from the Russian authorities, albeit not by the original deadline and that this material was now being forensically checked.
Normally countries that miss a deadline are given three months grace before being referred to the CRC but this was fast-tracked in the case of Russia due in no small part to the intense scrutiny from within and outside sport.
“Today, the ExCo was pleased to hear of the significant progress that has been made in resolving the Russian doping matter since its decision in September last year to reinstate RUSADA under strict conditions,” said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie.
“Collecting the all-important data is a critical step, and it was not easy to achieve. We are not yet at the finishing line and there is a lot more to do but undeniably we are much further along the track than we would have been without the September ExCo decision.”
“We are now proceeding to the second phase of that decision, namely authenticating the data retrieved from the former Moscow Laboratory so that ultimately we can use them to catch more athletes who cheated and to exonerate others. We will not be deterred from this mission, which we firmly believe is in the best interests of clean sport and of athletes worldwide.”
“Several members of the ExCo voiced their disappointment that the deadline had been missed but agreed that no sanction in that regard should be imposed. Above all, we want to ensure that those who cheated are held to account. That is what the September ExCo decision was all about, and I hope athletes and others see that we are making good progress in that regard.”
A statement on the WADA website outlined the reasons behind there being no immediate sanction imposed on Russia for missing the deadline.
“The CRC considered whether any sanction should be imposed for not meeting the 31 December deadline, but noted that in all other cases, corrective action after the specified deadline but before the CRC or ExCo meeting in question has been accepted. This is consistent with the view of stakeholders, stated expressly in the ISCCS, that formal non-compliance proceedings against a Code Signatory should be a ‘last resort’, pursued only after the Signatory has been given several opportunities to correct non-conformities. The CRC acknowledged the call from some quarters for a different response in this case, but its recommendation was that RUSADA should be treated no differently from other Signatories in this respect.”
“It should be noted that, as it seeks to authenticate the data, WADA’s I&I Department will submit progress reports every two weeks to the CRC. If at any point, it is reported that the data have been tampered with, the CRC will convene without delay to review the facts.”
The process continues then with many of the world’s anti-doping agencies, including Sport Ireland still sceptical about the speed and strength of commitment being shown.
Whether Sir Craig Reedie’s comments and the decision to maintain Russia’s compliance status will find favour in those bodies will be followed carefully over the coming days and weeks.