COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The easy part was shutting down Russia’s anti-doping agency until further notice.
The hard part for the World Anti-Doping Agency was, well, everything else.
WADA’s top policymaking board handed down a declaration of noncompliance to Russia’s anti-doping agency Wednesday, in a much-expected rebuke for the country where corruption has been exposed throughout its sports and drug-fighting systems.
But there were calls from Olympians and other leaders for WADA to do more — including making sure the Russian track team wouldn’t compete at the Rio Games next year, and also to investigate whether any other Russian teams doped.
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“I feel that there are a lot of athletes watching and waiting right now,” said Beckie Scott, the Canadian cross-country skier and chair of the WADA athlete commission. “We’re at a crossroads. We urge you to please consider these athletes and consider these sports as a whole.”
Her request was applauded by members of the 38-person WADA Foundation Board. But no action was taken.
Later, WADA President Craig Reedie said more fact-finding was needed before he could decide whether to expand the independent investigation that, so far, is only looking into Russia and track.
Reedie also said he would be asking governments and the International Olympic Committee for more money to conduct the sort of investigations that WADA is being pushed to tackle. It’s clear it will take more than the $26 million that WADA operates on each year to do the sort of work being done by the independent commission probing corruption in the Russian track system.
“To put it in perspective, lots of people said, ‘You need to do more investigations, you need to be more efficient,'” Reedie said. “No one turned and said, ‘By the way, this is how we’re going to pay for it.'”
On the money topic, Russia’s representative to the WADA board, deputy sports minister Pavel Kolobkov, said the Moscow lab that has already been decertified by WADA is in jeopardy of losing government funding.
That’s a result that would cripple the lab’s chances at reinstatement and “would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” said Dick Pound, the author of the independent commission’s report.
Otherwise, the Russian representative said the country was on board with the multitude of changes and improvements that need to be made to bring the country, its lab, track team and anti-doping agency (RUSADA) into compliance.
The Russian track team has been decertified by the sport’s international federation, IAAF, so at risk are not only the international events Russia is already scheduled to host but the track team’s participation in next year’s Rio Olympics.
U.S. Olympic champion Edwin Moses, a member of WADA, addressed the board and said “the only sanction that can send the message that enough is enough is to state loudly and clearly that the Russian athletics team cannot go to Rio.”
Later, in an interview with The Associated Press, he reiterated Scott’s request for other Russian sports to be investigated. Also speaking up was U.S. Olympic biathlete and Nordic skier Sarah Konrad, who sent a letter to a member of the WADA athletes’ commission asking for an expanded probe.
“Athletes see wide-scale, high-level corruption at the top, and it’s a kick in the stomach for them to see leadership not following rules,” Moses said.
The WADA board also requested better methods for whistleblowers to come forward and better protection for them when they do. They were key in the Russian investigation, and could be important in expanding it, as well.
Russia’s wasn’t the only anti-doping agency declared noncompliant. Also on the list were Israel and Andorra, while Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine were declared noncompliant for using non-accredited laboratories.
And Kenya is under the microscope. General director David Howman said WADA has asked a series of questions to leaders in the country, which is already under investigation by an IAAF task force. If the “answers are not satisfactory, the case will be forwarded to our compliance review committee for further consideration,” Howman said.
Also on Wednesday, the board decided to explore an IOC proposal that would take drug-testing functions out of the hands of sports federations like the IAAF. That’s a work in progress with some hope a new formula will be set by next August at the Rio Olympics.
That deadline was on everyone’s mind at these meetings.
There’s a lot of debate about how Russia’s path to compliance will be monitored by WADA, and whether any shortcuts will be taken, with less than nine months to go before the torch is lit.
“We as an anti-doping community have to decide, are we going to be relegated to a toothless bureaucracy or are we going to roll up our sleeves, make tough decisions and validate clean athletes’ decisions to do things the right way,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.