World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) experts will return to the Moscow laboratory at the centre of the Russian doping scandal on Wednesday to extract testing data that could lead to the prosecution of hundreds of drugs cheats.
Access to the lab’s secrets was a condition of the deal the Russians struck with WADA in September to lift the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) near three- year ban.
But that agreement was plunged into doubt when a five-strong team was prevented from carrying out its mission by the December 31 deadline because its technical equipment had not been certified by the local authorities.
This led to howls of protest from national anti-doping agencies and athletes’ groups, many of whom were already angry about the decision to reinstate RUSADA.
But Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov and WADA bosses, most notably president Sir Craig Reedie, have been in regular contact ever since the first group of experts left Moscow empty-handed on December 21 and a three-man team is now scheduled to arrive on January 9.
In a statement, the Montreal-based agency said the certification issue has now been “resolved” and explained why it is so important to gain unfettered access to the lab, which has been sealed as a crime scene ever since the scandal erupted in late 2015.
“Access to, and subsequent authentication and analysis of, the data remains crucial in order to build strong cases against cheats and exonerate other athletes suspected of having participated in widespread doping on the basis of previous WADA-backed investigations led by Richard W. Pound and Professor Richard H. McLaren,” said WADA in a statement.
Noting that the first deadline was missed, WADA said its independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) is scheduled to meet on January 14-15 to consider if RUSADA should be declared non-compliant again – a move that would have major repercussions.
The CRC’s recommendation will then be debated by WADA’s executive committee, via teleconference, as soon as possible, with the agency now able to issue more wide-ranging sanctions than it could in 2015, thanks to the increased powers it has under beefed-up compliance rules.