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Russia Winter Olympic hopes damaged by WADA decision

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency dealt a blow Thursday to Russia’s hopes of competing at next year’s Winter Olympics by refusing to reinstate the country’s suspended anti-doping operation.

At its meeting in South Korea, WADA said two key requirements for reinstating RUSADA had still not been fulfilled: That Russia publicly accept results of an investigation by Canadian Richard McLaren concluding that Russia ran a state-sponsored doping program, and that the country allow access to urine samples collected during the time of the cheating.

Craig Reedie, the chairman of WADA and a member of the International Olympic Committee, acknowledged that improvements have been made but full compliance had not been achieved.

“Having set a road map for compliance, there are two issues that have to be fulfilled and we can’t walk away from the commitments,” Reedie said.

Reedie refused to be drawn on what the decision meant for the Russian team’s chances of participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“We do not have the right to decide who takes part in international competition,” Reedie said. “I am quite certain that the IOC would prefer that RUSADA was compliant.”

The IOC said it is working to ensure Russian athletes undergo sufficient drug testing before the Olympics.

The IOC said its executive board, due to meet Dec. 5-7, “will take all the circumstances, including all the measures to ensure a level-playing field at the Olympic Winter Games 2018, into consideration when it decides on the participation of the Russian athletes.”

“The past has to be sanctioned,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to The New York Times. “The question now is about the future, and these are two different things.”

Thursday’s WADA ruling could mean Russia misses a second Paralympics after being excluded from Rio.

The International Paralympic Committee board is due to rule Dec. 19, spokesman Craig Spence told The Associated Press, adding that “clearly” RUSADA reinstatement remains a requirement for Russia to be admitted.

Russia has depicted the doping program that marred the Sochi Olympics as the work of individuals, not the government.

Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee and also a member of the International Olympic Committee, told WADA members at Thursday’s meeting that “We absolutely deny the existence of a state-sponsored doping system.”

“It is clear that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren Report is impossible,” Zhukov said. “Such a requirement cannot, and should not serve as an obstacle to the full compliance of RUSADA.”

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart described the latest development as “another sad moment in this entire sordid affair.”

“There was really no other outcome, based on their unwillingness to admit what the flood of evidence proves,” Tygart said. “Now clean athletes are watching anxiously to see if the IOC similarly will take action to finally stand up for their rights or not.”

The IOC has ultimate say on Russia’s status at next year’s Olympics.

WADA’s decision and Zhukov’s statements will play into decisions the IOC makes at meetings next month, where executive board members will discuss investigations into individual Russian doping cases from Sochi and into the allegations of state-sponsored manipulation of the anti-doping program.

Before Rio, the IOC refused to issue a blanket ban on the Russian team, instead allowing individual sports federations to determine eligibility of the athletes.

In the case of the Winter Games, the IOC already vacated results of six Russian athletes from Sochi and banned them from PyeongChang with several more cases still to be decided.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to news of the IOC bans by claiming it is being manipulated by U.S. interests that want to use doping scandals to embarrass his government ahead of next year’s elections in Russia.

In discussing Thursday’s decision, WADA director general Olivier Niggli said RUSADA made improvements but didn’t hit the mark on the most important ones.

“The road map with these conditions were exchanged with the Russians over 25 times in the last 18 months,” Niggli.

RUSADA may not be fully reinstated, but it is already collecting samples from athletes after WADA partly restored its powers in June.

In Moscow, RUSADA head Yuri Ganus said his agency had reformed to WADA standards and was now “completely independent,” but that the key remaining demands were outside his authority.

Ganus wouldn’t say if he personally accepts McLaren’s findings or if the Russian government should do so, though he called the report “a very serious document.”

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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