Russia still ‘not compliant’ over doping as Olympics loom

Seoul : Russia moved a step closer to being barred from the Winter Olympics in February when the World Anti-Doping Agency declined to lift the suspension of Moscow’s national anti-doping body on Thursday.

In a blow to Russia, the World Anti-Doping Agency maintained their suspension of the Russian body, RUSADA, which was first imposed in 2015 when evidence emerged of widespread cheating. WADA’s decision comes before the International Olympic Committee’s executive board meet next month to consider whether Russia can compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The independent McLaren report detailed a state-sponsored doping conspiracy from 2011 to 2015, including the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where the hosts topped the medals table. “We do not have the right to decide who takes part in international competition,” WADA president Craig Reedie told reporters following a Foundation Board meeting in Seoul. “The major event-holder has that right. We regret that RUSADA is not yet compliant. Technically, they have improved hugely since compliance was removed. “But having set a road map for compliance, there are two issues that have to be fulfilled and we can’t walk away from the commitments we have from that road map.”

Reacting to the WADA decision, the IOC said they “will take all the circumstances, including all the measures to ensure a level-playing field at the Olympic Winter Games 2018, into consideration when it decides on the participation of the Russian athletes in Pyeongchang.” WADA have demanded that Russia accept the findings of the McLaren report and allow access to urine samples stored at its Moscow laboratory as part of a “road map” back to compliance.

The report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren accused Russia’s secret service and sports ministry of orchestrating a plot that included using a “mousehole” to replace dirty samples at the Sochi doping laboratory.

Russia admit failings in their doping system but deny state involvement, instead blaming officials at RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory. “We accept the fact our national anti-doping system has failed… (but) we absolutely deny a state-sponsored doping system,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said in Seoul.  He added that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren report “is impossible”.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov pointed to improvements within RUSADA, and insisted it was independent of state control as he pleaded for the agency to be reinstated.

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