WADA Gives Russia Three Weeks to Explain Missing Doping Data

If Russia is found to have violated antidoping rules again, it will once again bring focus — and possibly embarrassment — on sports bodies that were quick to try to move on from the 2015 scandal. Those include, most notably, the International Olympic Committee and its president, Thomas Bach, who restored Russia’s membership only days after the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Olympics even though it remained under WADA suspension.

Under Ganus, Rusada has made strides in moving past the 2015 scandal. Rusada says it is testing more athletes than ever, and it has even won praise from WADA. But the Moscow laboratory at the center of the earlier scandal is managed by a separate body, and its secrets continue to cause problems for Russian sports.

WADA lifted its ban on Russia in 2018, much to the frustration of the wider global antidoping community and athlete groups, even though the authorities there continued to refuse to accept the findings of independent reports that concluded the conspiracy reached the highest levels of the Russian government. WADA said it had to make the compromise to ensure it could finally determine the identities of hundreds of athletes suspected of cheating.

Criticism that Russia, which, according to a WADA investigation, had used its internal intelligence agency in its yearslong cheating scheme, would manipulate the data it sent to WADA began almost immediately, and concerns only grew when experts sent to retrieve the data were initially refused entry to the Moscow laboratory.

Since receiving the data, WADA has identified 47 suspected doping cases, and evidence packs have been sent to various sports federations to start disciplinary proceedings against the athletes involved. Successfully prosecuting those cases is now at risk if there are questions around the larger database, though, according to Rob Koehler, a former WADA executive who now leads Global Athlete, a lobbying group for athletes that has been critical of the global regulator for not forcing Russia to stick to the road map to return that it had committed to.

“Almost all athletes were calling out WADA for its U-turn, national antidoping agencies were not happy, yet WADA and the compliance review committee felt they were outsmarting Russia,” Koehler said. “If this is the case, and the data has been manipulated, we’re back to the same situation.”