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Doping fight: WADA gathers 2,500 samples from Russian lab

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The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has gathered more than 2,500 samples from a Russian laboratory that can be used to potentially corroborate doping positives uncovered by an investigation into a massive government-directed program designed to win Olympic medals.

Obtaining the samples, along with data still being analyzed by WADA scientists, was a key goal for the agency as it tries to proceed with hundreds of cases from earlier in the decade.

WADA announced Tuesday that it had retrieved 2,562 samples, split them into “A″ and “B″ collection bottles and shipped them to a lab outside of Russia for testing.

Once the samples and underlying data behind them have been analyzed, WADA is expected to turn over evidence to international sports federations and national anti-doping agencies, which can bring forward cases.

If those organizations don’t act on cases, WADA has the right to bring them to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

WADA’s director of intelligence and investigations, Gunter Younger, said his five-person team “decided to take any and all samples that corresponded to data … that was even remotely (suspicious), even where an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was not suspected.”

Unknown is what percentage of cases the 2,562 samples represent; WADA has not provided that figure.

Regardless, the gathering of the samples is a success for WADA, which was heavily criticized for its decision to reinstate Russia’s anti-doping agency before receiving the data and samples, as had been a precondition of reinstatement. Instead, WADA said the data had to be handed over by Dec. 31, 2018, and the samples made available by June 30, 2019. Russia missed the first deadline by two weeks but did allow access to the data.

Younger’s team is expected to present an update to the WADA board at its meeting May 16.

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Russia prevents WADA from finding doping data in Moscow lab

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MOSCOW (AP) — World Anti-Doping Agency inspectors are leaving Moscow empty-handed after Russian authorities prevented them from accessing key doping data that the country’s authorities had agreed to hand over.

WADA reinstated the suspended Russian Anti-Doping Agency in September on the condition Russian authorities hand over lab data, which could help confirm a number of violations uncovered during an investigation that revealed a state-sponsored doping program designed to win medals at the Sochi Olympics and other major event.

But Friday, WADA said its delegation “was unable to complete its mission” because Russia unexpectedly demanded its equipment be “certified under Russian law.” WADA says the demand wasn’t raised at earlier talks. The deadline to turn over the data is Dec. 31.

WADA says team leader Toni Pascual will now prepare a report on the failed mission. The WADA compliance review committee that recommended RUSADA’s reinstatement will meet Jan. 14-15, where it could recommend the ban on RUSADA be re-imposed. WADA kept open the option of returning to the lab before year’s end if Russia resolves the issue.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told local media the WADA team would return, but there was no word on the date and no mention of the issue raised by WADA.

WADA leaders portrayed Russia’s willingness to turn over the data as a key reason for agreeing to reinstate RUSADA despite its failure to comply with key requirements on the “roadmap” WADA had set out.

“We’ve tried to come to terms with the Russians on how this was to be done, and this is the first time since discussing it that they’ve actually said ‘yes,’” WADA director general Olivier Niggli in September, in an impassioned defense of the decision. “We hope they’ll fulfill that promise.”

It was a widely criticized decision, and the reaction to Friday’s news was predictable.

“Surprise, surprise — anyone shocked by this?” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “Let’s hope WADA leadership has finally learned the lesson and immediately declares them non-compliant. Anything else is simply another shiv in the back of clean athletes.”

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WADA says it has 400 cases from whistleblowers

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has registered 400 cases after a flood of information from new whistleblowers.

The head of WADA’s investigations unit, Guenter Younger, says the agency has been approached by numerous whistleblowers in the wake of Russian doping scandals, which were sparked by insiders revealing widespread doping and cover-ups.

Younger says he was “overwhelmed” with information after WADA opened a whistleblower hotline in March 2017.

He says “I thought perhaps a few, but we have so many. We have 400 cases registered.”

Younger says the whistleblowers include “many” Russians, adding “it was the Russians that took their system down and we as well need to acknowledge that and help them as well, that they can come back as clean athletes.”