Under the terms of a new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Compliance Standard set to come into force next month, FINA may be forced to cancel the series-starting Kazan round of the World Cup set for September 7-9 if RUSADA, Russia’s suspended anti-doping agency, have not met the conditions required for reinstatement.
At the WADA Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, today, agency bosses announced that they are to adopt strict new rules that will extend the same standards of compliance for all signatories, from athletes to whole federations and everyone in between.
The new compliance treaty, for all levels of Code signatories, includes international standards that RUSADA, the national anti-doping agency, fell foul of on the way to a suspension still in place. In Russia’s case, it also requires RUSADA to accept the findings of the McLaren Report in the nation’s systematic doping crisis.
The compliance standard includes:
“(d) (where the Signatory is a Major Event Organization) (i) it will be ineligible to receive funding or enjoy any of the other benefits of the patronage of the International Olympic Committee or International Paralympic Committee or any other Signatory until it is Reinstated or for four years, whichever is longer…”
FINA is an “other Signatory” and it would be barred from offering its patronage to the Russian federation and Kazan as host of the first round of the 2018 World Cup.
Until the RUSADA suspension is lifted, Code signatories are not supposed to host events in Russia under the terms of the new compliance standards.
In Lausanne, today, the signs of an imminent RUSADA return to the WADA fold were less than hopeful, as leaders of the global anti-doping watchdog complained of slow progress by Russian authorities towards making RUSADA compliant with international standards.
The new WADA Compliance Standard is backed by athletes, whose top Olympic-realm representative Beckie Scott told delegates in Lausanne:
“Athletes are expected to uphold a very high standard of compliance in relation to anti-doping. It is very important that all Signatories are held to the same standards within the Code.”
The new compliance standard kicks in on April 1, no fooling, leaving four months for Russia and RUSAD to step up to full compliance ahead of reintroduction before Kazan, scene of a controversial 2015 FINA World Championships, is due to host the first World Cup event in the 2018 series.
Meanwhile, more than 900 participants from around the world are attending the WADA Symposium. On the vexed question of Russia and RUSADA, Craig Reedie, President of WADA, told the conference that he was “encouraged by the significant progress” made by RUSADA but added this stern caution:
“We want to welcome and independent and efficient RUSADA back in from the cold… it’s just a pity it is taking so long for Russian authorities to make it happen.”
A “significant amount of work” had been carried out by WADA to persuade the Russian authorities to recognize and accept as true the systemic doping scheme as revealed by the McLaren report”, said Sir Craig.
RUSADA was declared non-compliant in 2015 the year after British newspapers and Germany’s ARD investigations team, with the help of Russian whistleblowers, exposed serious and systematic cheating in Russian sport.
WADA commissioned Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren to investigate. The reports and recommendations and bans that followed, including a lifetime bar on Dr. Sergei Portugalov, a former swimming medical commission member in international governance, exposed deep and widespread doping across several sports, swimming among them.
At the time, Kazan was set to host the FINA World Championships and a small group of international swimming federation bosses had just awarded Vladimir Putin the organisations highest honour on the cusp of ARD revealing that the Russian president had signed a decree in 2009 for all anti-doping samples to be opened at the nation’s border before leaving for international laboratories. That decree was in contravention of the WADA Code and the compliance standards already in place at the time.
Further WADA and International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigations confirmed systematic doping linked to the state and involving the swapping of ‘unclean’ for ‘clean’ urine samples from the official IOC laboratory for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to a secret laboratory through a power point household in a wall. The revelations, involving more than. 1,000 athletes, marked the biggest doping scandal since the last systematic abuse of young athletes and international sports system: the GDR’s State Plan 14:25, which systematically doped an estimated 10,000 young athletes over two decades.
The sports results of State Plan 14:25 are still the official record and stands-setting history of the Olympic Games and swimming, not a single record or result or podium place in the pool ever removed, not a single measure of reconciliation taken.
Russia escaped a blanket ban from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 but was officially barred – though not in practice – from the Winter Games in Pyeongchang last month. More than 100 Russians competed under the neutral flag of the IOC but wore Russian colours and, as the men’s ice-hockey final proved, sang their national anthem in celebration, even though that had been barred by the IOC. The Olympic leadership failed to impose any penalty for infractions of the conditions under which Russians were allowed to compete in South Korea.
Reedie told the Lausanne gathering: “The big losers are Russia’s own athletes… future participation of Russian athletes at major sporting events will continue to be put in doubt.”
As will the right of Russia to host FINA events, if FINA is to honour the new WADA Compliance Standard. Sir Craig added:
“If WADA cannot declare that Russia has a compliant national anti-doping agency, then the rest of the world will not be convinced that any meaningful change has taken place (and) the suspicion and doubt will continue.”
Four-Year Plan – and Asking delegates to list their priorities
WADA Director General, Olivier Niggli, delivered a state of the union presentation at the symposium, outlining WADA’s Strategic priorities. He described which core activities had to be enhanced – effort and resources – and new measures that need support as well.
Delegates were asked to take part in a digital poll to register what they felt WADA’s core activities should be. Intelligence and Investigation, came out top of the tree.
That is the branch of WADA that was told in 2016 by The Times and SwimVortex that Vladimir Salnikov, FINA Bureau member and head of Russian swimming, knew in 2009 of two positive EPO tests among Russian swimmers but failed to report them, thus breaking the WADA Code.
Both WADA and FINA pledged investigation. No further word was ever heard, while repeated questions have gone unanswered.
Meanwhile, in Lausanne today, leading sports lawyer Jonathan Bird highlighted one of the gaping sores of the anti-doping movement when he said that the quality of arbiters at the Court of Arbitration for Sport was “very mixed” and was one of the reasons why decisions can be “so confusing” to athletes and a wider world looking on and asking “so, how does that work – and how does it send the right message that clean sport is the priority?”