The Russian Anti-Doping Agency remains non-compliant with the world anti-doping code, the World Anti-Doping Agency determined on Thursday.
The decision made by WADA’s foundation board at its meeting in Seoul comes less than three months before the start of the Pyeongchang Olympics and less than three weeks before the International Olympic Committee’s decision on sanctions for Russia.
WADA declared RUSADA non-compliant in November 2015 following the first of two investigations it commissioned into doping in Russia. It had set a roadmap for RUSADA to regain compliance, setting key criteria that included technical and personnel changes.
But RUSADA did not do enough to satisfy those criteria.
The compliance review committee unanimously recommended the agency not regain compliance because of that, and the foundation board adopted that recommendation.
In a letter to director general Olivier Niggli that was obtained by USA TODAY Sports, the committee highlighted remaining issues.
Those included Russia’s continued denial of the findings of a WADA-commissioned investigation that showed systemic and state-sponsored doping in the country; that the Russian government has not yet released electronic data and samples from the Moscow laboratory; that doping control officers be able to access Russian athletes training in closed cities for testing; and that RUSADA correct non-conformities found in a WADA audit.
“For these reasons, the CRC unanimously maintains its recommendation to the WADA Foundation Board that RUSADA should not be reinstated to the list of Code-compliant Signatories unless and until these remaining issues have been fully and satisfactorily resolved,” Jonathan Taylor, chair of the compliance review committee, wrote to Niggli on Friday.
Going into the meeting, RUSADA had completed nearly 20 of the criteria on the roadmap and the committee applauded the agency’s willingness to correct issues found in the audit.
But Russian officials have consistently denied operating a doping system and increased their rhetoric last week.
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Russian news agency TASS reported that sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said an investigative committee found no evidence to support the country operated a state-run doping system.
Anti-doping leaders expected the public comments to make WADA’s decision clear that RUSADA had not met the criteria.
“It’s absolutely the right decision, as sad as it may be, because all athletes deserve better than this,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “With all eyes focused on them, now is the time for a change of heart, in order to win this for clean athletes.”
Before the decision, Joseph de Pencier, CEO of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations, said, “We hope that a really credible national anti-doping program is going to emerge, but it still leaves unanswered the doubts and the lack of trust that were caused by this whole episode in the first place.”
Despite the repeated denials, Kolobkov told news agency R-Sport that “we have done everything possible” to have RUSADA reinstated.
Release of the data and samples remained a key sticking point going into the meeting.
WADA announced last week that it received digital data on drug tests run on Russian athletes at the Moscow laboratory. The New York Times, which first reported the news, cited an anonymous source who said the data came from a whistleblower and not through official channels.
WADA believes the data to be the Moscow lab’s database covering all testing from January 2012 until August 2015. After WADA revealed it obtained the data, the Russian investigative committee that previously concluded there was no system of doping said on Monday it is ready to cooperate with WADA.
The committee’s letter noted that it expects Russian authorities might challenge the authenticity of the database, making it important to get a copy to confirm if it is the same that WADA has and, in the case of a difference, access to the instruments that generated the data to see if it matches what WADA has.
The committee also noted that a doping control officer tried to test an athlete in a closed city on Nov. 4, but was not allowed to enter and was told to come back three days later.
It also said RUSADA has corrected or is in the process of correcting all but one item identified in WADA’s audit.
Taylor wrote that the committee “has been impressed with the commitment that the new RUSADA Director-General and staff have shown in reforming RUSADA.”
The decision could have major implications on the Olympics, and anti-doping leaders believe RUSADA’s continued non-compliance would increase pressure on the IOC in its decision.
“From the IOC perspective, the evidence is coming out of what happened in the Sochi laboratory during the Games is just devastating,” said Canadian Dick Pound, an IOC member and a member of WADA’s foundation board, before the meeting this week.
Pound led the first of two WADA-commissioned investigations in 2015, finding widespread doping in Russian track and field.
In July 2016, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren investigated information Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow lab, brought forward revealing a system of sample tampering during the Sochi Olympics that included passing urine samples through a hole in the wall.
McLaren’s final report showed more than 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in the state-sponsored system and mentioned 28 Russian athletes who competed in Sochi where evidence showed their samples had been tampered with.
The IOC created two commissions in July 2016, with one chaired by Denis Oswald examining individual cases and one chaired by Samuel Schmid investigating the system.
Six Russia skiers have been sanctioned for doping as a result of the Oswald Commission’s work.
The IOC’s executive board will issue a decision when it meets Dec. 5-7. It has said little about what that might be, though leaders from 37 National Anti-Doping Organizations have been among those calling for a ban of Russia with a path for Russians to compete as neutral athletes provided they can demonstrate their anti-doping record.
The WADA decision has clearer implications for the International Paralympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations. Both have said that RUSADA needs to gain compliance for Russians to compete.