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23 Sep, 2019 15:00

Russia pledges full cooperation after anti-doping watchdog WADA launches compliance probe

Russia pledges full cooperation after anti-doping watchdog WADA launches compliance probe

Russian sport officials said they are working to resolve issues with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Otherwise, there may be a new round of flashy headlines, Olympic bans and, years later, arbitrage hearings to overturn them.

The apparently never-ending saga of Russian doping allegations has entered a new chapter after more allegations of cheating were unloaded against the country. WADA’s executive committee on Monday heard a report from the body’s Compliance Review Committee on alleged violations by Russia’s national anti-doping agency RUSADA.

The report focused on analysis of historical data on doping tests which WADA received from Russia in January. The information had inconsistencies, the international agency said, which Russia has to explain within three weeks or RUSADA faces re-suspension. RUSADA was reinstated in September 2018 on several conditions, including a promise to hand over data.

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WADA would not explain in detail what irregularities have been found except that they didn’t affect the 47 potential rule violation cases that had been highlighted earlier. But Russian Sport Minister Pavel Kolobkov suggested the records didn’t fully match those provided earlier by whistleblowers.

“What exactly those inconsistencies are and how they came to be will be determined by experts in digital technology from both sides,” Kolobkov said on Monday. “We on our part will continue to provide full cooperation.”

If the explanation provided by Russia does not satisfy WADA, the nation faces resuspension and may potentially be barred from participating in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Japan. Russian athletes had to compete under a neutral flag during the previous Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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WADA suspended RUSADA in 2016 after accusing Russia of running a state-sponsored system of doping. This gave grounds for collective punishment of Russian athletes by various sports federations on mere suspicion that they could have benefited from doping. The Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF) remains banned from international competitions.

This approach however does not always stand up in court. In 2018, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland upheld appeals from 28 Russian athletes, who had been banned for life from competing by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The CAS at the time rejected evidence against them, which was based on the same whistleblower testimonies that triggered the entire doping scandal, as insufficient to punish individual athletes.

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Russia says that while, like any nation, it has some doping problems, there never was a state-sponsored effort to enable cheating. The sport sanctions are perceived as part of a concerted pressure campaign by Western nations to undermine Russia’s image.

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