WADA head sure Russia will meet anti-doping deadline

Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, speaks during a news conference following a meeting of WADA foundation board in Baku, Azerbaijan November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

By Nailia Bagirova and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

BAKU/MOSCOW (Reuters) - World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Sir Craig Reedie said on Thursday he was confident Russia would not miss a year-end deadline to hand over data from its suspended laboratory, a condition for its anti-doping agency (RUSADA) to stay accredited.

RUSADA was suspended in 2015 after a WADA-commissioned report found evidence of widespread, state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics. Moscow has vehemently denied the allegations.

RUSADA was conditionally reinstated in September - in theory paving the way for Russia's readmittance to major international sports events - but WADA has said failure to release full data from the Moscow lab by Dec. 31 could result in another suspension.

The head of RUSADA, Yuri Ganus, said last week he was worried that Russian judicial authorities, who hold the urine samples in question, could hinder the release of the relevant laboratory data before the deadline.

But after a meeting of WADA's foundation board in Baku, Reedie told Reuters: "I am confident that this will go ahead ... I find it very hard to believe that the guarantees made to us by the Russian authorities - that they won't deliver."

He said a WADA delegation would visit the lab on Nov. 28, after he received a letter from Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov saying it would be ready to host them that day.

They would prepare for a "full technical mission" two to three weeks later by three specialists from WADA and two from Russia.

Once Russia hands over the data, Reedie said, "we carry on as normal, as with any other national anti-doping agency".

In a statement, the Russian ministry confirmed the visit and said it was monitoring compliance with agreements with WADA.

The laboratory was suspended in November 2015 after a WADA-commissioned report found that its then-director, Grigory Rodchenkov, had aided and abetted doping and had admitted to intentionally destroying 1,417 samples to hinder a WADA audit.

Most Russian competitors were barred from this year's Winter Olympics in South Korea, as well as last year's World Athletics Championships. RUSADA's reinstatement angered many sports bodies and athletes around the globe, as well as some within WADA.

On Thursday, WADA approved recommendations made in the wake of that reinstatement: to introduce an independent president and create an independent ethics board.

The chair of WADA's athletes' committee, former Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott, told the BBC last month that she had been abused for opposing RUSADA’s reinstatement.

An initial WADA probe found no proof of improper behaviour, but on Wednesday it promised further enquiries.

Asked if he had spoken to Scott about the allegations, Reedie said: "As far as the comments that Beckie made about our September meeting, that was dealt with by the executive committee yesterday. I think that we've moved matters on."

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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