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WADA Defends Russian Anti-Doping Agency Reinstatement Recommendation Amid Criticism

RUSADA, the Russian antidoping agency, could have its international ban ended at a September 20 WADA meeting.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has defended its review committee’s decision to recommend reinstatement of Russia’s antidoping organization amid criticism about transparency and the resignation of a Canadian Olympic champion from the panel.

WADA in a statement on September 15 rejected criticism it had softened requirements that Russian officials acknowledge wrongdoing and also turn over data and other information as part of the country’s efforts to be reinstated from a global sports ban.

WADA said its actions were "grounded in pragmatism," reflected "flexibility," and were "entirely in line with the RUSADA Roadmap to Compliance" established in 2017.

Bringing Russia back in compliance "was never going to be achieved without small degrees of movement on both sides," it insisted.

WADA, based in Montreal, suspended RUSADA, Russia's antidoping agency, in 2015 over alleged state-backed doping in sports. Moscow has repeatedly denied state involvement in doping.

On September 14, WADA said it had received a recommendation from its Compliance Review Committee that RUSADA should be reinstated during its executive committee meeting on September 20.

WADA said the committee had reviewed a letter from the Russian Sports Ministry it said had "sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia," thus fulfilling the first of two remaining criteria for its reinstatement.

For the second outstanding criterion, it said that a "new commitment" to provide WADA access to data and samples in the Moscow laboratory to through an independent expert "would be sufficient to justify reinstatement."

Critics complained that the remarks represented a softening of demands that Russia fully accept WADA doping allegations and that it turn over data before reinstatement could occur.

WADA said its new statement on September 15 was issued to "clarify misinformation" regarding the RUSADA "road map." It came as some sporting officials had criticized what they said was a lack of transparency.

WADA stressed that Russian officials must still meet their obligations to turn over laboratory data and other information or otherwise face having RUSADA once again declared noncompliant, although no time frame was given.

It also called a BBC report "speculation and misinformation" after the British news organization obtained documents that suggested the chairman of the review committee still had doubts Moscow will give full access to its laboratories.

"The proposals made in the leaked letter are grounded in pragmatism and are nuanced interpretations of the roadmap in order to bring matters to a conclusion and to not allow the significant progress [RUSADA] has made over the past two years, under WADA's supervision, to be undone," WADA said.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told Russian news agencies on September 14 that "I was certain that the Compliance Review Committee would, sooner or later, recognize the huge work that has been done by Russia in the fight against doping."

Meanwhile, Olympic champion Beckie Scotto on September 15 said she had resigned from the six-member review committee.

She did not specify the reason for her action, but she has been one of the most outspoken athletes behind the antidoping movement.

The Canadian won a gold medal in the 2002 Olympics after finishing third in cross-country skiing competition but being upgraded when the Russian winner and runner-up were disqualified for using a performance-enhancing drug.

Media reports said Scott will retain her role as the head of WADA's athletes committee.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Interfax
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