WADA visits Moscow lab seeking key doping data
MOSCOW (AP) — A delegation from the World Anti-Doping Agency visited the Moscow laboratory at the center of Russia's doping cover-ups on Wednesday, seeking data which could lead to more bans for the country's top athletes.
Russia must provide computer data from the lab before Dec. 31 or risk having its national anti-doping agency suspended again, two months after its controversial reinstatement. With time running out, talks between WADA and Russian authorities on Wednesday failed to reach a deal on how to hand over the data.
"Progress is being made but some points still need to be ironed out" in talks with Russian authorities before WADA can collect the data, WADA's science director Olivier Rabin said.
WADA has found extensive evidence that Russia routinely falsified drug-testing results, including at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but must now hope authorities provide genuine data from past years. Russia must also submit athletes' stored samples for analysis by June 30.
Jim Walden, the lawyer for former lab director and WADA whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, told The Associated Press he expects Russia to either hold back the data or provide false information.
"I would posit that there is zero chance that Russia will give access to the backup data for the computers that were used during Sochi, and the lab equipment and the stored samples," Walden said Tuesday. "So the central question's going to be: when the Russians refuse what will WADA do? And if it capitulates again, then unfortunately the world would know that Russia really was successful at killing anti-doping."
The head of the Russian anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, urged the government to cooperate with WADA, saying that time was running out to avoid new sanctions for non-cooperation.
"We need to work out what's in that laboratory," Yuri Ganus told the AP. "If the laboratory isn't opened up, God forbid, or there isn't an opportunity to test the samples ... there will be destructive consequences for Russia."
WADA visited the lab, where key evidence is sealed off by Russian law enforcement, on Wednesday to make arrangements for a second team to arrive and collect the files. Depending on how Russia reacts and what the computer files contain, the issue could draw a line under Russia's years of doping scandals, or lead to more sanctions.
"The sooner we can gain full access to the laboratory, the better," Rabin said in a statement. "Clearly, there is a huge volume of data contained within it and we want to start analyzing it as soon as possible. Then, once the data has been fully assessed and verified to be authentic, we would be in a position to assert anti-doping rule violations against those athletes who cheated and to exonerate other athletes."
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov, who met the WADA delegation late Tuesday, issued a cautious statement after the lab visit.
"It's early at this stage to talk about timeframes and the size of work ahead," he said. "Soon all sides will work out a common position."
Any data can be checked against an unauthorized copy of the lab's database which WADA obtained last year under unclear circumstances. Walden said Rodchenkov — who is under witness protection in the United States — wasn't WADA's source.
If WADA does re-suspend RUSADA, that could severely obstruct the country's ability to host major sporting events. The previous RUSADA suspension didn't stop Russia from holding this year's soccer World Cup, when FIFA excluded all Russians from any role in collecting players' drug-testing samples.
WADA hasn't said it will automatically suspended RUSADA if the data isn't provided on time. WADA rules say if it can't ensure adequate testing of a country's athletes "it may be necessary to exclude athletes" from events including the Olympics.
"Our athletes could be stripped of the right to take part in international competition," Ganus said. "Russia would shut itself off from participating in international sports competition."