Published:  01:17 AM, 20 May 2017

WADA could lift Russia anti-doping suspension

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Craig Reedie (R) and Director General Olivier Niggli (L) speak at a press conference in Montreal. -AFP

World Anti-Doping Agency president Craig Reedie said Thursday the body could lift its suspension of Russia's drug-testing authority later this year after nearly two years on the blacklist. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has been suspended since 2015 in the wake of the report by Richard McLaren which uncovered widespread doping in Russian sport. Reedie however said RUSADA had taken concrete steps to clean up its image and could resume testing next month based on compliance criteria requested by WADA.

 "There is a huge amount of work being done,"  Reedie told a press conference following WADA's Foundation Board meeting. "The board decided if we receive, and I'm sure we will, the necessary information ... that the Russian anti-doping agency would be able to resume its testing program," Reedie added. Russia's commitment to comply with WADA's demanded improvements was called into question by the appointment of former pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva as head of the supervisory board of RUSADA last December.

Isinbayeva had been sharply critical of the McLaren report, claiming it unfairly targeted Russia in what she described as a "political act." McLaren's report had uncovered vast evidence of doping across Russian sport which took place with the connivance of RUSADA.

The scandal led to Russian track and field athletes being barred from the Rio Olympics last year following a ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In a separate development Thursday, WADA announced the creation of a new independent testing body but admitted it could not compel sports federations to come under its authority. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has backed the plan for an independent testing authority (ITA) and said it would be operational in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Valerie Fourneyron, chairman of WADA's Medical Committee, headed a working group to study the creation of the new testing agency. She said it was a "piece of the puzzle" in the fight against drugs. The body would "allow greater efficiency to ensure that tests improve," Fourneyron said. However, Fourneyron conceded that international sports federations could choose whether or not to come under the jurisdiction of the testing body.

It means that powerful sports federations which already have their own testing regimes may choose not to join. Nevertheless the announcement was welcomed by representatives of the anti-doping establishment. Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and a long-time advocate of a fully independent, properly funded global drug-testing body, said the move was a step in the right direction.

-AFP, Montreal



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