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Russia avoids new doping penalties over missed deadline

AFP  |  Montreal 

Russia remains under scrutiny even though it will not be punished for missing a December deadline to allow access to the Moscow laboratory at the centre of alleged state-sponsored doping, the World Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday.

WADA's Executive Committee decided to take no further action at a meeting earlier in the day.

"Several members of the (Executive Committee) voiced their disappointment that the deadline had been missed but agreed that no sanction in that regard should be imposed," WADA President Craig Reedie said.

WADA had conditionally lifted a ban on RUSADA in September last year, with one of the conditions being the granting of access to thousands of samples at the tainted Moscow lab by the end of 2018.

But when a WADA team arrived last month, Russian authorities raised issues with the certification of their equipment under Russian law. The data was eventually extracted this month.

Reedie and Jonathan Taylor, who heads WADA's Compliance Review Committee (CRC), both said that the agency had followed its rules and precedents set in other cases.

"Data was provided late. Data was provided after the deadline," Taylor said, before adding: "We decided this case should be treated the same as others."

Taylor said that under rules adopted last March, WADA had to give non-complaint nations three months to respond to a warning.

"As regulators we will adhere to our rules," Reedie said.

This is the latest chapter in an affair that surfaced with Richard McLaren's July 2016 report detailing doping in Russia from 2011 to 2015 involving more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30

The Canadian lawyer's damning revelations led to Russia's athletics team being barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics and Russian competitors exiled from the 2018 Winter Games.

US anti-doping agency chief Travis Tygart was quick to criticise WADA. "The decision to keep Russia compliant despite them missing the deadline and before any of the data has been verified as accurate was unfortunately expected," Tygart said in a statement.

"Obviously change is needed for a global system that holds athletes strictly accountable but allows states to corrupt the Olympic Games and perpetuate massive fraud on athletes and the public."

Russian officials said they were delighted with the decision but stressed there was still work to be done.

"I want to congratulate everyone on this decision. I want to congratulate the sportsmen and managers," Yury Ganus, the head of Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA, told a press conference in Moscow.

There is still essential work ahead of us. It is a long process," Ganus said, adding that he wanted to congratulate "those who supported RUSADA".

Reedie said "significant progress" had been made in "resolving the Russian doping matter".

"We will now proceed to authenticating the data that has been retrieved," he said. "We want to make sure that those who've cheated are held to account."

With the Tokyo Olympics 19 months away, the stakes are high for Russia. Since 2015, the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) has only allowed handpicked Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag.

In December it said it was maintaining that position and on Monday it cleared 42 Russian athletes to take part in events this year.

WADA warned on Tuesday that if any doping data from Russia was tampered with, it would take "the most stringent sanctions."

When Gunter Younger, Director of WADA's Intelligence and Investigations Department, was asked if the data could have been altered, he told a conference call with reporters: "It's complicated to (tamper with) the individual documents because they need to be consistent, but we are not too naive. We are going to look for any hints of falsification of the data."

Younger said in a letter that his team of experts "have obtained a forensic image of the entire central server" and that WADA had collected data from the Moscow lab's server and central database and 19 testing instruments and could compare them with the database provided by a whistleblower in 2017.

"We have identified the most suspicious cases - we know what we are looking for," Younger said. "The next step is to get the raw data out of the Moscow data and see if they are consistent with what we have.

"There should be the same substances in the samples as in our data," he added.

"We will not stop until we have investigated every case that we regard as very suspicious.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 23 2019. 01:00 IST