By Steve Keating
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) remains suspended and will continue to be non-compliant until it has met all the criteria for reinstatement, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday as cracks in its solidarity began to show.
WADA director general Olivier Niggli told the Foundation Board there would be no end to the dispute that has dragged on for nearly three years until RUSADA had fulfilled the guidelines laid out in the Road Map to Compliance.
“We follow our process,” Niggli told Reuters. “How long is it going to last?
“The Russians have the means to solve the problem if they want to. The ball is in their court.
“What matters to me is that we follow the process, we’ve outlined the Road Map and we follow that.”
Some Foundation Board members, however, feel the Road Map has hit a dead-end and it is time to conclude the matter.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Patrick Baumann, who also sits on the WADA executive committee, asked the Foundation Board how much longer it was willing to let the dispute drag on.
The meetings also included an attack on the Compliance Review Committee (CRC), an independent body that makes recommendations to the executive committee.
“We don’t challenge the Road Map, we question how long we want to follow it,” Baumann said. “What, for the next 10, 20, 30 years? What are we asking?
“Are we asking the head of state to come here and personally apologize?”
The IOC reinstated Russia on Feb. 28 after the remaining tests from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games all returned negative but WADA continues to stand firm.
The Foundation Board meeting appeared to expose a split that seems to be building between WADA hardliners and board members who also have ties to the IOC like Baumann and Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations.
Canadian senior IOC member Dick Pound, who helped set up WADA and was its first president, continues to be among the loudest voices demanding full compliance before Russia is welcomed back.
“They (Russia) are laughing at us,” Pound told Reuters. “It seems to me there has been an unrelenting effort to try to get them back in as opposed to saying you’re out, persuade us you have had a change of mind in conduct and maybe you come back.
“You get the impression that the IOC and the Olympic movement in general feels Russia is too important to be left out.”
Russia has met many of the demands but two items remain outstanding; access to the Moscow laboratory and acknowledging the findings of the WADA-commissioned report that found evidence of widespread state sponsored doping.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied the existence of state-sponsored doping.
Niggli told the Foundation Board that the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) was in possession of a letter from Russian sports authorities that might provide a breakthrough in the stalemate over Russian reluctance to admit to any state- sponsored doping.
“I hope it is a game changer,” WADA President Craig Reedie said.
“We’ve been exchanging correspondence now for the best part of a year and a half and there have been very many differentiations of the words, this one is probably the most encouraging one that we have had.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)