Russia case puts agency at crossroads in anti-doping fight
AP National Writer
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Russia and its compromised drug-testing program aren’t the only pressing matters the World Anti-Doping Agency faces at its meetings this week in Colorado. The future of WADA, and its role in the anti-doping movement, will be up for debate.
A key question for the 16-year-old agency when it meets Tuesday and Wednesday is whether it remains a more passive group that sifts through the remnants of events that have been tainted or becomes one that cleans things up before they get out of control.
“Instead of the carrot, you need the stick,” said Dick Pound, who chaired an independent commission that looked into doping in the Russian track program.
He said WADA had become “diffident” in using power to control the doping scourge he believes goes well beyond Russia and track and field.
Key leaders in the anti-doping movement are leaning toward the more proactive route, which could mean a number of things:
WADA could decide to take over anti-doping programs for sports federations, like the one that oversees track, instead of letting those federations run the programs themselves. The International Olympic Committee has requested that.
It could decide to carve out a bigger role for itself in testing and punishment in compromised countries such as Russia. One way to do that would be to place testing in the hands of agencies with reliable track records, like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or Canada’s Centre for Sports Ethics.
The agency could beef up its compliance and investigative staff to give the agency the ability to look into problems while they are current, not after the fact.
But paying for a beefed-up WADA and figuring out the logistics won’t be easy. WADA’s budget is about $26 million a year; half comes from the International Olympic Committee and the other half comes from governments around the world.
“If sports and governments don’t have the stomach to back WADA up on this, then the whole thing is lost,” said Graeme Steel, the leader of New Zealand’s anti-doping agency. “That wouldn’t be WADA’s fault, it would be the fault of the constituents.”
Some questions and answers about this week’s meetings:
Q: How will the meetings work?
A: On Tuesday, the WADA executive committee will meet to discuss what actions to take against Russia. A WADA compliance panel has already recommended sanctioning the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA). If the executive committee agrees, it will send the recommendation to Wednesday’s meeting of the WADA Foundation Board, a 38-person panel representing 32 countries (including Russia) that makes the ultimate decision.
Q: What sanctions can WADA hand down?
A: WADA has the power to declare a lab, an anti-doping agency, an international sports federation and even a country’s Olympic committee noncompliant. Any of these moves has potential to almost debilitate a country’s sports program or the sport itself. At this meeting, the most likely outcome is that RUSADA gets decertified. Track’s governing body, the IAAF, has already provisionally suspended Russia’s track federation and the country is in negotiations with the International Olympic Committee, IAAF and WADA to find the path back to compliance.
Q: And after the meetings?
A: The second part of the independent commission’s report should be out by the end of December. The IAAF’s former president, Lamine Diack, has already been put under investigation by French authorities after they received information from the report. If that’s a harbinger, WADA could have ample evidence to justify decertifying IAAF.
Q: Will Russia’s fate for the Rio Olympics be decided here?
A: Short answer, no. But exactly who has the authority to reinstate the Russian track team is murky. On Saturday, the Russian Olympic Committee said it would coordinate efforts to bring RUSADA, the decertified anti-doping lab in Moscow and the Russian track team in line with the WADA code. WADA has a say in reinstating RUSADA and the lab, and failure to reinstate RUSADA would not bode well for the track team. But officially, the track team comes under the IAAF’s jurisdiction. And with the IAAF under investigation itself, and subject to a potential sanction from WADA, there could be a major power vacuum when it comes to determining the fate of the track team.
Q: What are the leaders saying?
A: Paul Melia, the CEO of Canada’s anti-doping program, on WADA’s role in sanctioning: “If there is ambiguity, it needs to be cleared up, and clear responsibility and authority needs to be given to WADA.”
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency: “Once an athlete loses a competition to someone who’s doped, it’s an injustice we shouldn’t stand for and that we should do everything we can to prevent from happening.”
Pound: “You’ve now had 11, 12 years of experience with the anti-doping code. If you haven’t become code compliant over that time, you’re not trying very hard.”
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