MOSCOW (AP) — Should Russia be reinstated without publicly admitting wrongdoing for its statesponsored doping scheme?
That question has caused ferocious infighting at the World Agency, Anti-Doping the watchdog body tasked with stopping any repeat of the widespread drug use and cover-ups which tarnished a sporting superpower.
WADA’s board is due to vote on the issue Thursday in the Seychelles. If it votes yes, it might push world track and field body the IAAF to welcome back Russia too.
Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA, was suspended in November 2015 when a WADA report found top athletes could take banned drugs with near impunity since RUSADA and the national laboratory would cover for them. Later investigations found evidence that dirty samples were switched for clean ones when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The reinstatement of RUSADA is championed by WADA’s president Craig Reedie, who has softened two key conditions for Russia, and the move has the tacit backing of the International Olympic Committee.
But despite a recommendation for reinstatement from a key WADA committee, it has provoked anger from other anti-doping figures who feel Russia can’t be trusted to reform without accepting more of the blame.
Athletes on one of WADA’s own commissions, Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov and the WADA vice president Linda Helleland, lead the opposition.
“I am afraid that by opting for the easiest way out, it will ultimately hurt WADA in the future,” said Helleland, a Norwegian politician who is eyeing a bid to replace Reedie as the organization’s president.
Reedie softened his stance on Russia “in the spirit of compromise,” as he wrote to Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov in June.
That means dropping a demand for Russia to accept a report which accused the state of directing doping, and instead allowing it to accept an IOC document with milder conclusions.
Reedie deemed it satisfactory after Kolobkov wrote that he “fully accepted” the IOC report, and Russia won’t be expected to make any public statement or address exactly who in the vast state sports structure was to blame.
Critical of the move toward reinstating RUSADA, whistleblower Rodchenkov said Russia’s priority is “protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”
WADA’s Reedie also accepted Russia can be reinstated without providing some key evidence from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the allegations. Instead, Russia promises to deliver it only after it’s reinstated.
Russian law enforcement — and President Vladimir Putin — haven’t changed their argument that the main guilty party was WADA’s star whistle-blower Rodchenkov. Russian law enforcement alleges that he tricked clean Russian athletes into taking drugs for unclear reasons, then faked evidence of abuses at the Sochi Olympics.
Rodchenkov is in hiding in the United States, while other whistleblowers like the runners Yulia Stepanova and Andrei Dmitriev, have been vilified at home after reporting abuses by teammates.