The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) independent commission said on Wednesday there are ongoing doping problems in Russia, and that as a result Russian track and field athletes may be unable to take part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
“My guess is Russia may not make it back for Rio. The IAAF and WADA are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead,” Pound said.
The scandal over doping was fuelled by the explosive news on Tuesday that Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open. She admitted to testing positive for meldonium, which was only added to WADA’s list of prohibited substances in early January.
Dick Pound, who was in charge of an independent review that has recommended that the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) be banned from the sport for “systemic doping,” said on Tuesday the five-times Grand Slam winner was “reckless beyond description” and made “a big mistake.”
Pound’s review report, commissioned last November in the wake of a documentary by German TV channel ARD, claimed the existence of a Russian “shadow lab” designed to filter out athletes’ positive tests. The laboratory allegedly destroyed 1,714 samples shortly before a visit from WADA officials.
The ARAF accepted the doping suspension by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) without requesting an appeal. The IAAF said at the time that the ARAF fully understood that its membership could be reinstated “if the verification criteria have been fulfilled.”
It was believed the ARAF took the decision not to appeal against the suspension as it expected that a review by the IAAF inspection team in early 2016 could prompt the lifting of the ban and clear the way for Russian athletes to participate at the Rio Olympics.
The initial documentary by German freelance journalist Hans Seppelt, aired by ARD in December 2014, involved Russian whistleblowers who spoke out about what the film described as a systematic use of doping in athletics and other sports in Russia. Seppelt’s latest documentary, also on the issue of Russian anti-doping policies, appeared on ARD last Sunday.
The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, dismissed the latest allegations and said the recent documentary had a political agenda, telling TASS that Russia is doing its utmost to combat the use of doping in sports.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists the Kremlin is aware of the new doping allegations against Russian athletes, but urged people not to apply this situation to all sports in Russia.
“Attempts to politicize sports or turn it into a political tool to achieve specific goals are destructive for international sports, [and are] unacceptable and inexcusable,” Peskov stressed.
The Kremlin spokesman added he was confident that the new doping allegations will be thoroughly investigated.
Russia has been battling to make it to the Rio Olympics by massive restructuration of national athletics governing body and tightening control over doping practices.
Shortly after the release of Pound’s probe, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered a thorough inquiry into the alleged use of doping among athletes saying that individuals should be held accountable rather than the country being banned as a whole.
A week later, Aleksandr Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), said Russia will not boycott the 2016 Games because “Russian athletes must compete under the Russian flag” without interference of politics into sports.
Last December, all senior management of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) have resigned. Prior to that, RUSADA amended its charter to establish a supervisory board designed to monitor its activities and guarantee its impartiality.