Wada president wants quick call on Russia’s Winter Olympics participation

Sean Ingle
Russia hosted the last Winter Olympics but Sir Craig Reedie has called for a quick decision on whether they should attend the 2018 Games in Pyeonchang after the doping crisis in their sport. Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP

Sir Craig Reedie has urged the International Olympic Committee to decide whether to ban Russia from next year’s Winter Olympics at the “earliest possible date” in order to end the uncertainty for every athlete hoping to compete.

But the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency declined to say whether he felt that Russia should be excluded from Pyeongchang – despite conceding the “lurid allegations” of state-sponsored doping in the country were the worst he had ever heard.

Two reports by the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren last year provided comprehensive evidence that over 1,000 Russian athletes had their urine and blood samples tampered with by the Russian anti-doping authorities.

However in many cases it has been difficult for Wada to establish individual guilt, which has led some to suggest that the country’s athletes should again be punished collectively for the behaviour of the Russian state, as they were for last summer’s Paralympics in Rio.

When this was put to Reedie, he admitted: “That’s the argument that will become ever more apparent. I think steps could be taken now which would allow the International Olympic Committee to make a decision and preferably make it at the earliest possible date, in fairness to the Winter Games, the world’s athletes and the federations themselves.

“And the only way to do that is to make sure that the work that is being done by the IOC’s two disciplinary commissions [into Russian doping] is finished as quickly as possible.”

Reedie was a member of the Wada executive council that called for a ban on Russian athletes before the Rio Olympics last summer. However, speaking at the SportPro conference in London on Wednesday, he insisted there was still time for the country to show that it had reformed before the Winter Olympics in February 2018.

“As was quite clear before Rio, the World Anti-doping Agency does not have the power to ban Russia,” he said. “That’s not my call. Don’t let anybody believe that it is my call.

“We recommended the IOC declined to take entries before Rio. We’re a long, long way away from Pyeongchang. We were four or five weeks away from the Rio Games. I think there is time to resolve that.”

However Reedie insisted that for Russian athletes to compete in Pyeongchang they would all have to pass vigorous and comprehensive testing in the next few months.

“My guess – and it is an informed guess – is that there will be a very, very intense pre-Games testing programme before Pyeongchang,” he said. “And the IOC, I’m sure, will be hugely supportive of that and that will allow them to make a reasoned decision.

“The pre-Games testing programme is easier to do for a Winter Games than a summer Games, because you have fewer sports, and it will almost certainly be extensive and authoritative.”

However Reedie has admitted that Russia will struggle to return to competition in time for the world athletics championships in London this summer.

Last month an International Association of Athletics Federations task force investigating the country’s efforts of reform recommended that it should not return until November 2017 because Rusada was not yet compliant.

Reedie said: “The task force is currently monitoring improvements in Russia but I think it would be difficult for IAAF to remove the suspension of Russian Athletics while Rusada is non-compliant.”

Last month, Rune Andersen, who is leading the IAAF investigation, agreed that while Russian Athletics had made some efforts at reform following widespread revelations of state-sponsored doping, a lack of anti-doping testing in Russia coupled with government officials still refusing to acknowledge the extent of their problems, meant he could not recommend the country returning in time to compete in London in August.

Reedie also conceded that while relations with the IOC and Wada had been difficult in recent months following the investigations into Russia, he was hoping to establish better relations at a lunch with the IOC president, Thomas Bach, on Monday. “Somebody said :‘You should’ve put a target on your back, Craig,’” he said of the personal criticism he suffered. “I didn’t think it was the IOC’s finest moment.”

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