World Anti-Doping Agency Absolves 95 Russian Athletes, Citing Insufficient Evidence
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the global regulator of drugs in sports that investigated allegations of state-sponsored doping by Russia, has announced that it will absolve 95 of the country’s first 96 athletes whose cases have been reviewed, according to an internal report.
Russian Athletes Doping Scandal News
The New York Times reported the news on Tuesday, and shared a copy of the agency’s report, which cited lack of sufficient evidence as the main reason for not charging the athletes with anti-doping rule violations. The report does not identify any of the 96 athletes.
In an interview on Monday, WADA’s director general Olivier Niggli said: “The system was very well organized,” referring to Russia’s coordinated cheating that extended from world championship competitions to the Olympic Games. “On top if it, years after the fact, the remaining evidence is often very limited.”
According to the Times, Richard McLaren — the lead investigator who spent most of the past two years identifying approximately 1,000 implicated Russian athletes — stated it would be hard to prosecute and hand down punishments in many cases because of the country’s lack of cooperation in disclosing lab data, coupled with its repeated habit of destroying tainted urine samples that would also serve as evidence.
“We have to accept the fact that McLaren’s purpose was to prove a system, not individual violations,” Mr. Niggli said in a telephone interview. “There might have been more evidence out there in Russia for sure, but there was a limit to what he was able to get.”
No sports officials reportedly requested interviews with whistle-blower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov — Russia’s former anti-doping lab chief who initially prompted the probe into the nation’s doping scheme and who now lives in the United States under the protection from the Justice Department. Rodchenkov was allegedly unavailable for interviews or testimony for some time, although his lawyer stated Rodchenkov is prepared to cooperate with the anti-doping inquiries.
The International Olympic Committee, meanwhile, is continuing its probes into Russia’s cheating and is considering blanket punishments for the country ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Nevertheless, no medals from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia — where there were the most incidents of doping by the country’s athletes — have been stripped from competitors.
Per the Times, the only athlete of the 96 who was disciplined was prosecuted successfully because officials had obtained an incriminating urine sample from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow. Rodchenkov said the Russian government has made it a crime for investigators to enter a certain storage area in the lab containing other samples.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that WADA has urged Russia to stop blaming the agency for its doping schemes, after one Russian deputy prime minister said the organization was partially to blame.
“Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Tuesday said WADA should have been held responsible for Grigory Rodchenkov,” Reuters reported.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 11: Mariya Savinova of Russia celebrates afte winning gold in the Women’s 800m Final on Day 15 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 11, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)