Saturday 24 August 2019

WADA provisionally suspends Russia's drug-testing laboratory in Moscow

A general view shows a building of the federal state budgetary institution
A general view shows a building of the federal state budgetary institution "Federal scientific centre of physical culture and sports", which houses a laboratory led by Grigory Rodchenkov and accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in Moscow, Russia

Martyn Ziegler

The World Anti-Doping Agency has provisionally suspended Russia's drug-testing laboratory in Moscow.

In one of sport's biggest ever scandals an independent commission set up by WADA revealed on Monday that 1,417 samples were deliberately destroyed on the orders of the director of Russia's drug-testing laboratory.

A WADA spokesman told Press Association Sport: "I can confirm we have provisionally suspended the laboratory. A disciplinary process will now be started and a three-person disciplinary panel will now be set up."

A WADA statement said the suspension would take place immediately and prohibit the Moscow laboratory from carrying out any WADA-related anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples. An appeal against the decision can be made to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days of the suspension being notified.

The disciplinary committee when formed will review the case and make a recommendation on the laboratory's accreditation status.

In the meantime, all samples from the laboratory will be transported to an alternative WADA-accredited laboratory.

"WADA has acted swiftly to one of the key recommendations made by the independent commission in its report," said WADA president Sir Craig Reedie.

"The Moscow laboratory is provisionally suspended, and the status of the laboratory's accreditation beyond that will be decided by a disciplinary committee which will be formed shortly to review the case."

The suspension of the laboratory comes in the wake of an explosive report which revealed Russian ran a state-sponsored doping programme.

The head of UK Athletics has called for Russia to be banned from international competition and stripped of hosting next year's world junior championships.

Ed Warner said Russia's place at the Rio 2016 Olympics should be jeopardised following the report's findings and the IAAF World Junior Championships, scheduled to be held in Kazan in July next year, be moved to a new country.

Warner told Press Association Sport: ''I am all for suspension until the systems in Russia are proved to be robust.

''The IAAF is meeting later this week to consider suspending Russia and my strong advice would be that you have got to do that.

''If you suspend the Russian athletics federation you then have to remove the World Junior Championships - cancel them and take them elsewhere.

''The worst thing would be for Russia to turn up at the World Indoor Championships in Oregon in March or to host the juniors and we find out that nothing has changed.''

The WADA report revealed senior anti-doping figures took cash to cover up positive tests, there was intimidation of officials and their families by undercover officers from the Russian secret service FSB and athletes were given warning of when tests were to take place.

The independent commission's chairman Richard Pound, the former WADA president, said Russia should be banned from next year's Games and that there was suspicion over its performances which ''sabotaged'' the London 2012 Games where the country won 82 medals.

Warner added: ''The great sadness for London 2012 is for those clean athletes who missed out on a final or a medal because someone else was doping - they will go around for the rest of their lives feeling cheated. They will never get those days back.''

Warner is also chairman of the organising committee for the 2017 World Championships in London and said the sport needed to use that event as an opportunity to show it had properly tackled doping across the globe.

''It is an opportunity for (IAAF president) Seb Coe and the athletics world to show its best face, that the cheats have been hauled out of the sport and that the corrupt officials are bang to rights,'' he said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted there was no evidence for the contents of the WADA report.

He told media in Moscow: ''There is no evidence so it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded.''

However, the Russian athletics federation on Tuesday released a statement urging against its.suspension and saying it was committed to co-operating with the athletics world in the fight against doping.

It said it wanted a "meaningful, strategic partnership with the IAAF" and added: "The real fair partnership in this work is much more effective than any kind of suspension and isolation."

The federation said it would show the IAAF details of its anti-doping programme and its response to the commission's report in the coming days.

It said: "We confirm our commitment to the formation of the modern system of athletics development in Russia, our openness to the cooperation with international and national athletics federations, including co-operation in the struggle against doping.

We have been doing this work in accordance with the programme approved by the Russian Athletic Federation council in April and supported by the delegates of the Federation's annual conference on 2 November 2015.

"The new administration of the federation and the new chiefs of the national team focused their attention on the development of the system of preventive measures against doping usage. We have been in close co-operation with RUSADA on all the anti-doping education programs for different categories of athletes and coaches. Russian Athletic Federation fights severely against anti-doping rules violations by athletes, coaches and other categories of specialists working in athletics.

"In August the Russian Athletic Federation took an unprecedented decision of excluding from the national team for the World Championships in Beijing the race walkers, regardless of their titles and previous merits.

"Moreover, several coaches were banned from working with athletes, and there are investigations going on with the respect to a number of specialists.

"All athletes who break anti-doping rules are disqualified regardless of their previous titles and results. The Russian Athletic Federation will continue to fight severely against any attempts of breaking the anti-doping rules and code and will response in an adequate manner to the particular allegations mentioned in the commission's report."

Meanwhile, the former president of the Russian athletics federation says he will clear his name in court.

Valentin Balakhnichev, who headed the federation for more than 20 years until resigning in February following a string of doping cases, was accused in the report of involvement in a scheme to extort money from athletes accused of doping.

He told Russia's Tass news agency that he will go to CAS because "otherwise we won't get to the bottom of this situation".

Balakhnichev did not specify which particular points in the report he intended to dispute in court, but said he would defend "both my personal interests and the interests of the country".

The report did not include Balakhnichev on a list of Russian coaches and officials recommended to receive lifetime bans, although it said he was "ultimately responsible" for wrongdoing during his time in charge of the federation.

More to follow

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