RIO DE JANEIRO – The split between Olympic leaders and global anti-doping officials over the Russian doping scandal continues to deepen.
The World Anti-Doping Agency fired back on Monday, a day after IOC president Thomas Bach suggested the agency was to blame for the last-minute chaos over the participation of Russian athletes in the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Bach said the agency should have acted sooner on evidence of state-sponsored doping rather than release the damning report by Canadian investigator Richard McLaren so close to the games, which open on Friday.
“While it is destabilizing in the lead-up to the Games, it is obvious, given the seriousness of the revelations that he (McLaren) uncovered, that they had to be published and acted upon without delay,” WADA president Craig Reedie said in a statement Monday.
Reedie, who is also an IOC vice president, told the AP that he wanted to set the record straight after Bach’s comments by explaining the agency’s handling of the allegations against the Russians.
“He seemed to use WADA as a diversion in some way,” Reedie said. “We thought in all honesty we needed to just explain the position and what we tried to do.”
WADA and Bach have been at odds since the agency publicly recommended that the IOC impose a total ban on Russia’s Olympic team following McLaren’s report detailing state-directed doping across more than two dozen winter and summer sports.
“It’s unfortunately just before the Games,” Reedie told the AP. “It was caused by very, very serious evidence of wrongdoing. There was little time to resolve it, and so it was likely to destabilize the situation.”
Asked about the divisions with the International Olympic Committee, he said: “Most of us will get over this. It’s all perfectly civilized.”
On Sunday, Bach defended the IOC’s decision not to ban the entire Russian delegation, and said the IOC was not responsible for the timing of the latest WADA report, which came out on July 18.
On July 24, the IOC placed the burden on international sports federations to determine if Russian athletes should be allowed to compete in Rio. More than 100 Russian athletes – including the track and field team – have been excluded, with more than 250 declared eligible by the federations so far.
“The IOC is not responsible for the timing of the McLaren report,” Bach said. “The IOC is not responsible for the fact that different information which was offered to WADA already a couple of years ago was not followed up. The IOC is not responsible for the accreditation or supervision of anti-doping laboratories.”
WADA, which was created by the IOC in 1999 to lead the anti-doping fight, and receives half of its funding from the IOC, issued a long statement defending itself.
“WADA wishes to factually clarify that the agency acted immediately on allegations concerning Russia when it had corroborated evidence and the power to do so under the World Anti-Doping Code,” it said.
WADA said it set up a commission headed by Dick Pound to investigate allegations of systematic doping made in a documentary by German broadcaster ARD in December 2014. The agency said it acquired new powers to investigate in January 2015.
Pound’s report, which was released in November 2015, detailed widespread cheating in track and field and led the IAAF to ban Russia’s entire team. Pound said he also found that doping in Russia was likely not restricted to track and field, and that Russian secret service officers were present in the Sochi and Moscow laboratories. But Pound said he did not uncover “concrete evidence” that the Russian government was manipulating doping controls.
WADA said it acquired strong evidence of Russian state involvement in early May, when CBS’ “60 Minutes” and The New York Times published allegations by Moscow’s former lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov. That led to McLaren’s investigation, which corroborated Rodchenkov’s claims that dirty samples of Russian athletes were replaced with clean ones during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Since then, WADA director general Olivier Niggli said, the agency “facilitated the transfer of relevant information that is available to date” about individual Russian athletes to the various international federations.
Responding to Bach’s swipe about supervision of the Russian doping labs, WADA said its focus is on the “technical abilities” of the labs. It noted that it suspended the Moscow lab in 2015 after violations were cited in Pound’s report.
“Addressing corruption within the anti-doping system – including state or secret service interference in laboratory operations – will be one of the topics discussed” during a WADA conference in September, the agency said.
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