The director-general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has defended his organization's decision not to impose new penalties against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) for delaying access to data from the Moscow drug-testing laboratory at the center of alleged state-sponsored doping.
Olivier Niggli made the remarks after WADA decided at a January 22 meeting that it would not take further action against RUSADA for missing a deadline to allow access to the Moscow laboratory.
The missed deadline prompted criticism from some athletes and national anti-doping organizations around the world.
Some critics argued that Russia was effectively given extra time to comply with WADA's demands and that the global anti-doping agency had shown little urgency in dealing with the biggest crisis in its history.
A statement from the Netherlands' Olympic Committee Athlete Commission complained that the "process has not been respectfully followed by either party, WADA nor Russia."
Niggli responded to the criticism by arguing that RUSADA appeared to be changing.
"We performed an audit of RUSADA in December which went very well and they came out of it as a very efficient and good anti-doping organization," Niggli said.
"Is everything ok? I wouldn't say so, but it's certainly going in the right direction at the moment," he said.
"I think this is a very promising thing going forward because having a good anti-doping system in Russia is what everybody needs," Niggli added. "That's the key to the future."
Ahead of WADA's January 22 decision, RUSADA Director-General Yury Ganus wrote to the WADA Executive Committee to plead for leniency.
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said after the January 22 meeting that "very significant progress" had been made by RUSADA "to resolve doping matters in Russia."
WADA's inspectors were denied access to the controversial Moscow laboratory in December, which meant RUSADA missed a December 31 deadline to comply.
But the WADA inspectors eventually gained access to the laboratory on January 10.
The visit was a condition of WADA's controversial decision in September to provisionally reinstate RUSADA.
WADA now must analyze the data retrieved from the Moscow lab.
Jonathan Taylor, the head of WADA's compliance review committee, said that if the data were found not to be authentic or to have been tampered with, the agency would "propose serious consequences."
A WADA-commissioned report outlining evidence of systematic, state-backed doping by Russian athletes led to RUSADA being suspended in 2015.
Another report a year later documented more than 1,000 doping cases across dozens of sports, most notably at the Winter Olympics that Russia hosted in Sochi in 2014.