SEOUL (AFP) – The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will decide whether to reinstate scandal-hit Russia today after explosive doping revelations put a question mark over its participation in next year’s Winter Olympics.
Less than three months before the Games in Pyeongchang, a green light from WADA would be a huge plus for Russia as it fights to avoid a possible ban from the event by the International Olympic Committee.
Russia was declared “non-compliant” by WADA after the McLaren report alleged state-sponsored doping from 2011 to 2015, culminating at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi – where the hosts topped the medals table.
Russia’s secret service and sports ministry were accused of orchestrating an elaborate plot that included using a “mousehole” to switch dirty samples at the doping laboratory in the Black Sea resort.
Last week, WADA said it had obtained an “enormous” internal database of Russian drug test results from 2012-2015, findings from which are expected to be reported to Thursday’s foundation board meeting in Seoul.
Ripples from the controversy have spread wide after President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of inventing drugs allegations to influence next year’s presidential election.
“In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia,” Putin said last week.
“Russia never had and, I hope, will never have a system of state doping of which we are being accused,” he said.
Sports minister Pavel Kolobkov has admitted he’s pessimistic about Russia’s readmission by WADA, which is demanding that it “publicly accept” the McLaren report’s findings.
“It is difficult as they have demanded the unconditional recognition of the McLaren report that we cannot accept as it contains too many discrepancies,” he told the R-sport agency.
Russia partially accepts the findings of the report, compiled by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, but Putin and others have strenuously denied the existence of a state-sponsored doping programme.
Progress has been made, and WADA has already partially lifted its ban on the Russian anti-doping agency, giving it the right to collect samples. It also audited the body in September.
But WADA also wants access to urine samples stored in Russia’s Moscow anti-doping laboratory as one of the key demands of its “road map” to return to compliance.
However, even if WADA stops short of declaring Russia compliant in Seoul, it may not be fatal to the country’s chances of competing in Pyeongchang.
The IOC ignored WADA’s calls to ban Russia from last year’s Rio Olympics over the McLaren report, instead leaving the decision to individual sports bodies.
The Olympic body is expected to announce Russia’s fate at an executive board meeting in December in Lausanne, where it will hear the results of two investigations into Russian doping.