Wada inspectors finally gain access to Russian drug sample data at third time of asking

Tom Morgan
The Telegraph
The Russian National Anti-doping Agency RUSADA building in Moscow, Russia - AP
The Russian National Anti-doping Agency RUSADA building in Moscow, Russia - AP

The World Anti-Doping Agency has finally gained access to Russian drug sample data after inspectors carried out their third attempt to gain access to Moscow laboratories.

Officials from the beleaguered agency have insisted Russia will not be allowed off the hook for missing the Dec 31 deadline to provide full access to samples. However, Wada inspectors are now on site at Rusada, the Russian anti-doping agency at the centre of the nation's drug scandal.

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Over three days, experts will copy data which could implicate numerous Russian athletes in past drug cases. On Thursday, the Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov was reported as saying: “Work has started with the equipment, setting the equipment up and copying the database. Work is proceeding with full coordination because we discussed all the technical and organisational details before then.”

Wada confirmed its team "has gained access to the lab and has not reported any issues so far”. In an attempt to explain why Russia had previously missed the deadline, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin claimed that there had been disagreements over how the data would be transferred.

Wada is seeking data covering several years up to 2015, when the laboratory was shut down on its orders. Investigations found lab staff routinely covered up failed drug tests by hundreds of leading Russian athletes across dozens of sports. That eventually led to Russia being punished with restrictions at last year’s Winter Olympics, where it fielded a smaller-than-usual team under the title “Olympic Athletes from Russia” and a neutral flag.

A vehicle bearing the insignia of the Investigative Committee, a Russian law enforcement agency, also arrived at the laboratory on Thursday.

Following this week's visit, Wada's compliance review committee will meet to decide what action to take. Sir Craig Reedie, the Wada president, had previously said "we are continuing to act on the basis" that the deadline has already been missed "with all the consequences that failure could bring".

Sanctions against Russia's doping control agency, Rusada, were controversially lifted in September on the basis that Wada would be granted access to its laboratories by Dec 31. Anti-doping campaigners are hopeful Rusada will be told the sanctions will be reinstated when an independent panel meets to review the case on Jan 14.

However, Russia may strongly appeal against any fresh action if full access is provided this week.

Mims Davies, the Sports Minister, called on Wada to act "quickly and decisively". She said she was monitoring developments in Russia with "significant interest" after visiting UK Sport for an update on progress ahead of Tokyo 2020.

"We simply must ensure that they are able to compete on a level playing field," Davies said. "Wada's role is crucial in this, as an authority and advocate for fair and clean sport. It is essential that they create and foster confidence in their work. I will look to them to act quickly and decisively in any area needed following their visit to Russia and the forthcoming Compliance Review Committee meeting next week."

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