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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Athletes around the world react with scorn to anti-doping agency vote on Russia

RUSADA has been suspended for almost three years, but the vote on Thursday could see it finds its way back to Wada.

British, Canadian and US athletes have spoken out against the vote. EPA
British, Canadian and US athletes have spoken out against the vote. EPA

Western athletes are voicing their dismay at the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) recommendation to end Russia’s suspension from international sport.

Wada’s executive committee is due to discuss the fate of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) on Thursday following a recommendation from its compliance review committee last week.

RUSADA has been suspended for almost three years and could only be reinstated if it met two criteria: granting Wada access to its Moscow laboratory and fully accepting the findings of the McLaren report, which revealed widespread drug cheating by the state.

Wada is split on whether Russia has met these criteria. The compliance review committee said it was satisfied that Russia is ready for reinstatement; however, the BBC published a conflicting Wada document which said neither of the criteria had been met.

The reinstatement of RUSADA as a member of WADA would be a key step in the journey for Russia to compete in athletics at an international level once again. At last year’s world championships, Russian track athletes competed under the banner of “authorised neutral athletes”.

As the news broke, current and former athletes from Canada, the UK and the US took to social media to excoriate the anti-doping agency.

British heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, who last week was awarded a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after Ukraine’s Lyudmila Blonska and Russia’s Tatyana Chernova were disqualified for doping, said “Who wants to collect medals 10 years later?! NO-ONE!”

Many figures from media and sport retweeted British former decathlete Daley Thompson, who asked “Why has Craig Reedie [Wada president] and Wada abandoned the very reason for their existence, try and help create a level playing field, to try and ease Russia back into international sport without having complied.”

Other British athletes, including six-time Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy and marathon great Paula Radcliffe have signed a UK Doping Commission letter to the governing body expressing their dismay at the decision, saying it will “undermine trust in the essence of fair play on which sport is formed”.

Brits weren’t the only athletes to speak up. Canadian former cross-country skier Beckie Scott resigned her position on the Wada Compliance Review Committee in protest at the RUSADA decision. She will, however, remain as the chair of Wada’s athlete committee.

Other Canadian athletes also took to the social media platform to express their disgust at the upcoming vote and thank Ms Scott for standing by her principles.