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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

WADA votes to lift Russian anti-doping agency ban

The decision has been instantly criticised by the international sporting community

The World Anti-Doping Agency has been given a green light to lift its ban on Russia's drug-tainted testing authority after a recommendation from investigators. AFP
The World Anti-Doping Agency has been given a green light to lift its ban on Russia's drug-tainted testing authority after a recommendation from investigators. AFP

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has lifted a ban on Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA amid strong opposition from the international sporting community.

RUSADA was suspended in 2015 after an independent WADA investigation carried out by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren found evidence of state-backed doping of Russian athletes.

But WADA officials meeting in the Seychelles on Thursday decided to reinstate the Russian anti-doping agency, subject to what it said were “strict conditions”.

"Today, the great majority of the WADA Executive Committee (ExCo) decided to reinstate RUSADA as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code, subject to strict conditions," WADA President Craig Reedie said on Thursday.

"This decision provides a clear timeline by which WADA must be given access to the former Moscow laboratory data and samples with a clear commitment by the ExCo that should this timeline not be met."

WADA had originally said RUSADA would not be reinstated unless it allowed access to its Moscow laboratory and accepted Mr McLaren’s findings.

However, at the executive committee meeting, the 12 members said it would accept a timeline for access to the laboratory. Mr Reedie added that the ban would be reinstated if such access was denied.

The Russian government, who have denied allegations of state-backed doping, said it "welcomed" the move.

"Over the past years Russia has done enormous work to create transparent and understandable measures to prevent doping," Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

The doping scandal led to Russia being largely banned from the winter 2018 Olympics in South Korea as well as the Russian Athletics Federation being banned by the International Association of Athletics Federation.

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The RUSADA decision gives hope to Russia’s track and field athletes and Paralympians, who were famously barred from competing in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, the move was criticised immediately by the lawyer for whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former RUSADA official whose evidence led to the ban.

Jim Walden described the ban lift as "the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history”.

"The United States is wasting its money by continuing to fund WADA, which is obviously impotent to address Russia’s state-sponsored doping," he said in a statement.

While former British heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, who last week received a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after a Russian and Ukrainian athlete were found to have been doping, also hit out at the decision.

Tweeting WADA, she wrote: "You are either tricking Russia into making more mistakes so you can ban them again or you are totally taking the p***!"

Former Canadian race-walker Inaki Gomez added that reinstating RUSADA "will tarnish WADA's reputation and bring sport into disrepute".