RUSADA 'within weeks' of restarting testing as independent body to be optional for IFs
Business - 19 May 2017
RUSADA, the suspended Russian anti-doing organisation, is “within a matter of weeks” of being able to begin anti-doping testing again using its own doping control officers, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
RUSADA was suspended by WADA following the major ‘state-supported’ doping scandal in Russia of the past two years.
However, in a statement that followed yesterday’s meeting of its Foundation Board, Olivier Niggli, director general of WADA (pictured), said: “WADA will keep working with Russia to help them return to compliance as soon as possible, which we are resolutely focused on doing.
“WADA, UKAD [UK Anti-Doping] and our independent experts have been working tirelessly with RUSADA and firmly believe that allowing them to restart testing, under supervision, is a right step, in the right direction. Then, it will be a matter for RUSADA to meet the remaining reinstatement criteria that is outlined within an agreed roadmap.”
The RUSADA move follows a recommendation of WADA’s independent compliance review committee, which also received approval from the board for what WADA described as “development of a framework that specifies a range of graded, proportionate and predictable consequences for non-compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) by a Signatory.”
The recommendations would allow WADA to apply its own sanctions against non-compliant international federations, national Olympic committees and major event organisers for the first time, as opposed to merely recommending sanctions.
If approved in time, the new powers would in theory allow WADA to take a decision itself to bar the Russian team from next year’s winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, in the event that it is still not satisfied with reforms of the Russian anti-doping system. WADA recommended such a course of action for last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but was overruled by the International Olympic Committee which chose instead to hand over to the international federations concerned the decision over which Russian athletes were eligible to compete.
WADA said: “All this will involve a robust stakeholder consultation process starting in early June with the view to seeking approval at the next Board meeting in November 2017 and the changes entering into effect in early 2018.” The PyeongChang winter Olympics begin in February.
Craig Reedie, WADA’s president, added: “WADA is pleased that the Board supports development of a graded sanctioning framework, which addresses the strong call by stakeholders, in particular athletes, for a clear and transparent procedure that addresses non-compliance by Signatories.
“It is very important that all Signatories are held to the same standards within the Code. Athletes are expected to uphold a very high standard of compliance and now is the time for all members of the clean sport movement to do the same. The WADA Athlete Committee believes this is a critical step towards ensuring a level playing field.”
There was little mention of progress in WADA’s deliberations over the IOC’s controversial recommendation that a global independent anti-doping testing body should be established, which had been expected to be a prominent feature of the meeting. However, WADA's statement did suggest that participation in such a body would be optional for international federations.
WADA said: “The Board also approved the mechanism for appointment of the ITA [Independent Testing Authority] Board; along with, principles which were agreed earlier this month by a WADA Working Group comprised of the Sports Movement and Governments. The ITA, which was first proposed by the Olympic Summit in November 2015, will assist International Federations (IFs) that wish to delegate their anti-doping programs to an independent body.”
Some international federations, including soccer’s Fifa, are opposed to the independent testing authority plan which is the brainchild of Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, who was reacting to concerns over a conflict of interest in the present system in which international federations are responsible for testing ‘their’ athletes.
The IOC and WADA themselves came under heavy fire in the wake of the doping crisis that engulfed Russian sport, over perceived conflicts of interest that, it has been suggested, could lead to certain sports or certain athletes being favoured in the anti-doping process.
Meanwhile, WADA said that the board will consider a third review of the code in November, with a view to approval and acceptance at the next World Conference on Doping in Sport which, it said, is to be held in Katowice, Poland in November 2019.
WADA said that the board also “approved that WADA explore development of an International Standard for Education and Information, which would elevate the importance of values-based education within the World Anti-Doping Program and guide stakeholders in developing and carrying out effective programs.”
• Yelena Isinbayeva’s reign as chair of RUSADA looks set to be a short one, with the pole vault icon, now an IOC member, likely to be ousted by the end of this month.
RUSADA has been told to find an independent chair as one of the long list of reforms it must implement and, pressed by former WADA president Dick Pound on the status of “the person about whom everyone has complained,” Rob Koehler, WADA’s deputy director general, responded: “To be very clear, as of the 31st of May, the person will be gone.”
Isinbayeva’s appointment was described as a “provocation” by Pound after she repeatedly criticised a decision by the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, to ban virtually the entire Russian athletics team from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics, in the wake of the independent McLaren report into alleged Russian doping.