19th September 2018

Pressure builds on WADA over RUSADA decision

Pressure is building on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over tomorrow’s Executive Committee decision on whether to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). On Friday last week, WADA announced that the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had recommended that RUSADA should be reinstated. ‘While WADA does not usually communicate CRC recommendations prior to their consideration by the ExCo, the Agency decided to do so in this case given the level of interest surrounding the matter and the amount of speculation’, read a 14 September statement. 

A day later, a 13 September letter to WADA from Pavel Kolobkov, Russia’s Minister of Sport, was leaked to the media, forcing WADA to publish its entire record of communication with Kolobkov about the reinstatement of RUSADA. As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative on Monday, this revealed a climbdown by WADA over the two conditions on its Roadmap To Compliance that RUSADA must achieve before being reinstated as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. 

WADA’s climbdown was outlined in a 22 June 2018 letter from Sir Craig Reedie, President of WADA, which had not previously been published. As stated, Kolobkov’s reply to Reedie is dated 13 September, almost three months after Reedie made his offer and one week before WADA’s Executive Committee meeting.

On Monday, the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) revealed that last week, WADA had assured European government representatives that the reinstatement of RUSADA would not be up for discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. However, as Kolobkov’s reply to Reedie is dated 13 September, it is possible that WADA didn’t think there would be a deal on the table until Friday last week. 

WADA must adhere to the principles of good governance’, read iNADO’s statement. ‘Such principles would not allow, for example, WADA to assure a party (Russia) that a favourable outcome will be the result before the decision-making body (ExCo) have discussed the alterations. They would ensure such a crucial decision would have ample time for adequate consultation and consideration. They would not resort to semantics to bring about what was clearly not the originally intended position. The Code provides no opportunity for those bound (notably athletes) to negotiate changes in the wording of the Code to suit their purpose. The Code stands and must be adhered to and so should the “Road Map” for Compliance (as WADA had assured the world it would be).’

iNADO’s opposition to the CRC’s recommendation to reinstate RUSADA was followed by a statement from other anti-doping organisations calling for tomorrow’s decision to be postponed. They refuted the suggestion by Reedie that WADA had not ‘moved the goalposts’ by agreeing to the revised two conditions. ‘These are not new proposals and we wish to avoid any accusation that WADA “moves the goalposts”’, read Reedie’s 22 June 2018 letter to Kolobkov.

‘The letters represent a clear “shifting of the goalposts” by WADA’, read the statement, signed by 13 national anti-doping organisations. ‘We cannot understand or accept that the simple fact that the two remaining conditions – regarding Russian acceptance of the McLaren Report and access for WADA to the Moscow laboratory – remain unfulfilled, and yet WADA’s leading compliance body is recommending the reinstatement of a country that perpetrated the worst doping system ever seen in international sport’.

Today, WADA’s Vice President, Linda Hofstad Helleland, said that she would vote against the reinstatement of RUSADA. Hofstad Helleland is one of 12 members of the Executive Committee, which WADA states is composed equally of representatives from the Olympic movement and governments. 

‘I can see that progress is being made and I acknowledge the efforts done by RUSADA, but as long as the McLaren Report is not acknowledged and WADA still has no access to the laboratories, I will vote against the reinstatement of Russia’, she wrote in a statement provided to the BBC. ‘I am in no doubt that the tabled proposal is deviating considerably from the original roadmap and hence I feel I am obliged to defend previous decisions at the WADA ExCo [Executive Committee]. This is one of the most critical decisions the anti-doping community has ever faced.

‘I will vote for, and support the original roadmap. This is because I believe you should never make any compromises that undermine your credibility. If you choose to reinstate Russia, you defy the very wish of the athletes’ committees around the world, who have very clearly stated that they will not accept a reinstatement now. This moment will forever define the credibility of WADA as the independent and strong front runner for clean sport.’

Points to note

1. WADA proposed the watered-down conditions for RUSADA’s reinstatement in the 22 June 2018 letter authored by its President, Sir Craig Reedie and its Director General, Olivier Niggli;

2. Russia’s Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, took almost three months to reply to WADA’s offer, and did not fully agree to it;

3. Kolobkov’s reply apparently took WADA by surprise, as it told European governments that the reinstatement of RUSADA would not be up for discussion at the Executive Committee meeting;

4. WADA has not responded to calls for tomorrow’s vote to be postponed;

5. Tomorrow’s decision hangs in the balance. Reedie is likely to vote in favour of RUSADA’s reinstatement, and Hofstad Helleland has said she will vote against it. The other ten Executive Committee members are split between the Olympic movement and governments.

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