An important meeting of a World Anti-Doping Agency investigators group that could have led to significant new punishments for Russia was canceled on Wednesday after Russia's massive response overwhelmed investigators.
WADA, the global anti-doping regulator and Russia's top anti-doping authority claim that Russia manipulated a database of anti-doping test results before handing it over to WADA as a condition for lifting an earlier doping ban. Russian official Yuri Ganus said this month that "thousands" of drug test results were changed before data was sent to WADA for review. WADA, which compared the Russian results submitted to investigators with a separate data set provided by a whistleblower, apparently came to the same conclusion.
The meeting scheduled for Wednesday between WADA investigators and the Russian authorities should have been one of the last opportunities for Russia to explain the discrepancies. Otherwise, investigators and a WADA compliance panel are expected to recommend to the WADA board next month that Russia faces even tougher fines than those that barred Russian teams – though not all Russian athletes – from the Games. 2018 Winter Olympics and the last two World Athletics Championships.
Ganus told The New York Times last week that he suspected Russian authorities had made changes to the database to cover failed tests of prominent former athletes who are now politicians or senior sports officials. He said Wednesday he expects Russia to face a new ban because of the manipulated results, describing the case as "the biggest crisis in Russian sport so far".
Under the new WADA regulations, Russia faces being an international sports pariah, banned from competing in all global sporting events linked to its code signatory organizations, including FIFA, the governing body of football. That could mean banning not only from next summer's Tokyo Olympics, but also from the 2022 World Cup.
WADA leadership critics, including national athlete groups and anti-doping bodies, questioned the organization's decision last year to suspend its suspension from Russia, although Russia had not yet met all the criteria of a road map for redemption following a scandal. Doping 2015 This has revealed one of the most sophisticated state-sponsored doping schemes in the history of sport. Delivering the results database to a Moscow anti-doping laboratory was one such condition.
Russia did not allow a WADA team to extract data from the lab until January, and only after returning authorities sent to retrieve it when they first arrived a month earlier. In September, after investigators began to suspect what they believed to be manipulation of the results, WADA gave Russia three weeks to explain how several positive tests were excluded from the database.
WADA then sent Russia a list of 31 questions related to the discrepancies. The Russian press recently quoted Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov as saying that all questions had been answered and that the Russian authorities were confident that the situation could be resolved.
But the volume of that response overwhelmed the investigations and WADA intelligence unit, and WADA said in a statement that investigators could not meet with Russian authorities on Wednesday.
The meeting was postponed, WADA said, because the committee's researchers and independent forensic experts "continue to evaluate the responses of the Russian authorities."
"As described earlier, no strict timelines can be given," WADA said in the statement. "WADA is still following the process and is dealing with this complex issue as quickly as possible."
The delay almost certainly means that a decision will not be made until the WADA council meets next month in Katowice, Poland, the last meeting to be overseen by current WADA president Craig Reedie. WADA will nominate Reedie's successor at that meeting; The main candidate is Poland's minister of sport and tourism, Witold Banka.