Friday 2 December 2016

WADA hit back at criticism from IOC over timing of McLaren Report

Published 02/08/2016 | 14:45

A ban on Russia's track and field athletes competing in Rio has been upheld (AP)
A ban on Russia's track and field athletes competing in Rio has been upheld (AP)

The World Anti-Doping Agency has hit back at criticism from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach about the timing of its McLaren Report into Russian state-orchestrated doping.

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Bach insisted the IOC could not be held responsible for the timing of the McLaren Report and the subsequent scramble to assess the eligibility of Russian athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics, which start on Friday, and suggested WADA could have acted sooner on evidence provided by Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova.

But WADA president Craig Reedie defended the agency's response to available evidence of Russian doping, and the timing of the McLaren Report's release on July 18, in a statement on Monday.

"It was only when CBS 60 Minutes and the New York Times, on 8 and 12 May 2016 respectively, published the allegations from the former director of the Moscow and Sochi laboratories, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, that WADA had concrete evidence suggesting Russian state involvement that could be investigated by initiating the McLaren Investigation, which we did immediately," said Reedie.

"It must be understood that Dr Rodchenkov was heard several times by the Pound Commission in 2015 and that he never provided the information that he later revealed to the New York Times in May 2016. This information was subsequently corroborated by the McLaren Investigation, which also unveiled a wider implication of the Moscow laboratory.

"WADA's executive committee - composed in equal parts by representatives of the Olympic movement and Governments of the world - supported Professor McLaren's independent mandate, which was to obtain evidence as quickly as possible in the interest of clean athletes.

"While it is destabilising in the lead up to the Games, it is obvious, given the seriousness of the revelations that he uncovered, that they had to be published and acted upon without delay."

The McLaren Report recommended a blanket ban for Russian athletes for Rio 2016 but the IOC decided on July 24 that the international federations should rule on their eligibility in their sports and has since set up an independent panel to give a final decision.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli said: "Further to the International Olympic Committee's criteria being outlined on 24 July, WADA has facilitated the transfer of relevant information that is available to date, concerning individual athletes, from the McLaren Investigation team to International Federations.

"It should be noted however that Professor McLaren's focus thus far was on establishing involvement of the Russian State and not regarding individual athletes that may have benefited.

"WADA will continue supporting anti-doping organizations by providing information as and when it becomes available via McLaren's ongoing Investigation."

Earlier today WADA confirmed that it had cancelled its scheduled Rio 2016 pre-Games press conference to avoid it being overshadowed by the ongoing Russian doping crisis.

The WADA press conference had been due to take place at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park at 1530 local time on Thursday, a day before the Games' opening ceremony.

Reedie, Niggli and independent observer team chair Jonathan Taylor were due to have appeared before the media.

WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said: "Given current events, we believed that our press conference - which was to focus on WADA's Independent Observer and Athlete Outreach programs - would be overshadowed by other matters."

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