Russia is a step closer to facing a possible ban of its athletes from the Winter Olympics in South Korea after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) upheld its decision that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) remains non-compliant.
WADA tweeted its ruling following a foundation board meeting in Seoul on Thursday, less than three months before the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February.
The tweet read, “WADA Foundation Board approves the recommendation by the Independent Compliance Review Committee that RUSADA remain non-compliant.”
Russia’s anti-doping agency was initially deemed non-compliant after the 2016 publication of the McLaren report, commissioned by WADA, which found the Russian state conspired with athletes and sporting officials to undertake a doping program that was unprecedented in its scale and ambition.
Russia’s ministry for sport has repeatedly denied the report’s findings.
In order to regain compliance, RUSADA had to follow a 32-point “roadmap.” However, WADA said Thursday it had failed to meet two of those conditions: to acknowledge an existence of a Russian state-sponsored doping program and to provide WADA access officers to a Moscow laboratory.
RUSADA director-general Yuri Ganus said the result “wasn’t a surprise” but insisted that his team had “carried out the road map step by step, tracking each stage,” and that the two unfulfilled points “go beyond our authority.”
At a press conference in Seoul following the announcement, WADA President Craig Reedie said that WADA “regrets” that the “Russians are not compliant.” He said any decision on whether Russian athletes will compete at Pyeongchang would come from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC’s decision is expected to make its decision at an executive board meeting next month in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Russian officials rounded on the WADA decision, with Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko calling it “expected” and a “road to nowhere.”
His sports minister, Kolobkov, called it “politicized,” according to a report in state media RT.
“These two demands are obviously of a political nature,” Kolobkov said, referring to the two unfulfilled WADA conditions asked of the Russian agency.
The head of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Alexander Zhukov dismissed the accusations as “a joke.”
“(Compliance Review Committee chair Jonathan) Taylor’s committee has been inventing reasons not to reinstate RUSADA; the accusations against RUSADA are simply a joke!” RT reported.
At Thursday’s WADA press conference, Reedie said that there “was time” for Russia to become compliant and compete at the Pyongchang games.
“(The) IOC would have liked RUSADA compliant,” he said.
“There is time before their decision. There are potential for things to change. First we have board meetings to do and things will change.”