World Anti-Doping chief calls for decision on Russia in Winter Games
Reedie says Russian athletes would have to pass vigorous testing before Pyeongchang
Sir Craig Reedie: “As was quite clear before Rio, the World Anti-Doping Agency does not have the power to ban Russia.” Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Sir Craig Reedie has urged the International Olympic Committee to make a decision on whether to ban Russia from next year’s Winter Olympics at the “earliest possible date” in order to end the uncertainty for athletes hoping to compete.
However, Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), declined to say if he believed Russia should be excluded from Pyeongchang – despite conceding the “lurid allegations” of state-sponsored doping in the country were the worst he had ever heard.
Two reports last year by a Canadian law professor, Richard McLaren, provided comprehensive evidence that the urine and blood samples of more than 1,000 Russian athletes were tampered with by Russian anti-doping authorities. But it has been difficult for Wada to establish individual guilt in many cases, leading some to suggest that Russia’s athletes should again be punished collectively for the behaviour of their state, as they were by being banned from last summer’s Paralympics in Rio .
When this was put to Reedie, he admitted: “That’s the argument that will become ever more apparent. I think steps could be taken now which would allow the International Olympic Committee to make a decision and preferably make it at the earliest possible date, in fairness to the Winter Games, the world’s athletes and the federations themselves.
“And the only way to do that is to make sure that the work that is being done by the IOC’s two disciplinary commissions [into Russian doping] is finished as quickly as possible.”
Reedie was a member of the Wada executive council that called for a ban on Russian athletes before last summer’s Rio Olympics. Speaking at the SportPro conference in London on Wednesday, he said there was still time for the country to show that it had reformed before the Winter Olympics in February 2018.
“As was quite clear before Rio, the World Anti-Doping Agency does not have the power to ban Russia,” he said. “That’s not my call. Don’t let anybody believe that it is my call. We recommended the IOC decline to take entries before Rio. We’re a long, long way away from Pyeongchang. We were four or five weeks away from the Rio Games. I think there is time to resolve that.”
Still, Reedie insisted Russian athletes wishing to compete in Pyeongchang will have to pass vigorous and comprehensive testing in the next few months.
“My guess – and it is an informed guess – is that there will be a very, very intense pre-Games testing programme before Pyeongchang,” he said. “And the IOC, I’m sure, will be hugely supportive of that, and that will allow them to make a reasoned decision.
“The pre-Games testing programme is easier to do for a Winter Games than a Summer Games, because you have fewer sports, and it will almost certainly be extensive and authoritative.”
Russia will struggle to return to competition in time for the World Athletics Championships in London this summer, Reedie said. Last month, a task force from the International Association of Athletics Federations investigating the Russia’s efforts to reform recommended that it should not return until November 2017 because the country was not yet compliant.
Said Reedie: “The task force is currently monitoring improvements in Russia,” he said, “but I think it would be difficult for IAAF to remove the suspension of Russian athletics while Rusada [the Russian anti-doping agency] is noncompliant.”
Lack of testing
Last month Rune Andersen, who is leading the IAAF investigation, agreed that while Russian athletics had made some efforts at reform following widespread revelations of state-sponsored doping, a lack of testing in Russia, coupled with government officials still refusing to acknowledge the extent of their problems, meant he could not recommend the country returning in time to compete in London.
Reedie also conceded that relations between Wada and the IOC had been difficult in recent months following the investigations into Russia. But he was hoping to establish better relations at a lunch with the IOC president, Thomas Bach, on Monday.
“Somebody said, ‘You should’ve put a target on your back, Craig’,” Reedie said of the personal criticism he suffered. “I didn’t think it was the IOC’s finest moment.”