MOSCOW – Even before Friday’s publication of a new report into alleged state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes, Russia and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are bickering.
WADA is upset because it was not consulted before a new board was picked to oversee reforms at the suspended Russian drug-testing agency, known as RUSADA. The board is chaired by pole vault great and WADA critic Yelena Isinbayeva.
Isinbayeva, who retired after Russia’s track and field team was banned from this year’s Olympics over doping concerns, has previously said WADA’s findings are unproven but is now expected to try to persuade WADA to lift RUSADA’s suspension.
WADA said the move — which has the backing of the Russian Sports Ministry — broke an agreement that it would have a say on major appointments before they were announced.
“We will be addressing concerns directly with the Russian authorities to ensure that we can establish a code compliant anti-doping organization that can withstand international scrutiny,” WADA said in a statement.
“WADA had expected to be consulted regarding important matters such as the terms of reference of the board as well as the core structure of the agency before the public appointment of persons to these roles, as was outlined in the core requirements of the roadmap provided to RUSADA in November.”
Isinbayeva became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in August and is also a candidate for president of the suspended Russian track and field federation.
She is not a member of the IOC’s executive board, which ruled Wednesday to extend sanctions on Russia ahead of Friday’s publication of the second part of WADA investigator Richard McLaren’s report on doping cover-ups in the country.
Isinbayeva, who was appointed to the RUSADA board on Wednesday, has previously said McLaren’s accusations against Russia are unproven and called for athlete-turned-whistleblower Yulia Stepanova to be banned for life.
“We were suspended without proof, insolently, crudely. We were not given a chance to justify ourselves,” Isinbayeva said in a tearful speech at the Kremlin in July.
Besides Isinbayeva, the new 10-person board also contains a senior sports ministry official, Vadim Bairamov, despite repeated assurances by the Russian government in recent months that it was trying to cut ties between RUSADA and the ministry, where other senior officials have been accused of covering up hundreds of failed doping tests.
As well as managing relations with WADA, Isinbayeva’s supervisory board will also choose RUSADA’s chief executive at a meeting later this month.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian authorities would back their clean athletes. He also criticized McLaren’s work to date.
“The Kremlin is ready for thorough and active work to protect the interests of our athletes who have never had anything to do with doping,” Peskov said. “The Kremlin is ready to listen to detailed information about claims that can be made in such documents. There was no detailed information before, and many accusations were quite abstract.”
The International Paralympic Committee, which banned Russia from this year’s games over doping concerns, said Thursday that former UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson will head a task force to assess whether Russia is ready to be readmitted.
Parkinson, currently the head of British Rowing, will lead a five-person group. The IPC said last month that the Russian Paralympic Committee must cut ties with the government and “adequately address the findings of the McLaren Report.”