WADA Acts on Doping Report, Revoking Accreditation of Russian Lab

Simon Austin
Lionel Bonaventure | AFP | Getty Images

In an interview Tuesday, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency defended his handling of the Russian athletics scandal, even as his organization moved to revoke the accreditation of a Moscow lab at the heart of the scandal.

An independent commission set up by WADA published a 323-page report Monday that outlined the scandal, the most extensive state-sponsored sports doping program since the 1970s. The commission was created in the wake of a documentary by the German broadcaster ARD in December 2014, which used the accounts of athletes, coaches and antidoping officials to show how the Russian government had helped procure drugs and cover up positive results.

The commission's report confirmed many of the film's charges, but it also accused the Russian government of abetting in the doping program and included the recommendation that Russia be barred from international competition — at least temporarily — as a result.

In an interview, the WADA president, Craig Reedie, acknowledged that a whistle-blower had first approached WADA before turning to ARD. Reedie said he had no regrets about his agency's handling of the information or the scandal. But he confirmed that he had sent a reassuring email to the Russian sports ministry in April — four months after the ARD documentary was broadcast — in which he praised the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, for his efforts in the fight against doping and said there was "no intention in WADA to do anything to affect" their relationship.

Calling all coaches

Reedie said he did not regret sending the email, which was revealed by a British newspaper in August, only the fact that it had been leaked.

"I have dealt with that with my executive committee, and they are quite comfortable with it," Reedie said of the email. "I sent a private email to the Russian ministry after I was made aware by them that they were under the impression that WADA was 'attacking' Russia. This is after meetings with the Russian ministry and the Russian minister when he accepted and knew perfectly well that the commission would do its work."

He added, "The assumption that I was soft on Russia I have categorically denied, and I think you can see from yesterday's report that anybody who believes I am soft on Russia must be marginally off their head."

WADA and others moved quickly Tuesday to enact the report's recommendations. WADA revoked the accreditation of Russia's antidoping lab in Moscow, effective immediately. The move prohibits the lab from testing blood and urine samples, which WADA said will be transferred "securely, promptly and with a demonstrable chain of custody" to another WADA-accredited lab outside Russia.

Hours later, the Russian news agency Tass said that the lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, had resigned. Monday's report had recommended that he receive a lifetime ban after it accused him of covering up positive doping tests, extorting money from athletes and destroying samples.

The International Olympic Committee also issued a statement Tuesday, calling on track and field's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, to begin disciplinary proceedings against the athletes and coaches named in the WADA report and, if necessary, strip them of their Olympic results and medals.

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Reedie, 74, meanwhile, defended WADA for not doing more in the wake of a meeting between one of its officials and the Russian whistle-blower Vitaly Stepanov in 2013. Stepanov is a former employee of the Russian antidoping agency and the husband of the middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, whose revelations formed the basis of the ARD documentary.

Stepanov had approached WADA in 2013 with information about doping in Russian athletics and was interviewed by a representative of the agency. When he began to doubt WADA's appetite for action, he instead turned to the German journalist Hajo Seppelt, whose reporting formed the basis of the ARD documentary.

Reedie, who was appointed WADA president in November 2013, said he did not know of the contact between the antidoping body's staff member and Stepanov when he took up the post.

"The original contact, which appears to have happened, I wasn't aware of that," Reedie said. "Yes, if somebody spoke to them and that's a matter of record, then so be it. You have to understand WADA people speak to all sorts of people in the antidoping community all around the world, all the time. It's a constant dialogue."

He said he was not concerned that, as president, he had not been made aware of the contact with a whistle-blower.

"I don't micromanage an organization of which I am the elected president," he said. "I let my staff get on with the very complex and difficult work that they do. This has to be part of the normal work of the agency. Lots and lots of people are speaking to us on lots and lots of issues all of the time."

Reedie said he first learned of the allegations about systemic doping in Russian athletics when the ARD documentary was broadcast last December.

"I was first of all surprised, secondly depressed, because they were very serious allegations," he said. "I called my office in Montreal and said we had better see what reaction we get. We got a reaction very quickly from national antidoping organizations, and we acted on that and set up very quickly an independent commission."

That commission, led by the former WADA president Dick Pound, was created two weeks later, and it released its findings on Monday.

Next week, WADA is expected to declare Russian athletics "noncompliant" with its antidoping code at a meeting in Colorado Springs.