By Steve Keating
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency continued to crack down on Russia drug cheats on Wednesday by suspending the country’s anti-doping agency amid calls to extend investigations to other countries and sports.
The decision to suspend the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for non-compliance had the full support of WADA’s foundation board and follows the international anti-doping commission’s report that detailed a widespread doping scandal in the country.
A Moscow lab which processed blood and urine samples from Russian athletes on behalf of the Russian athletics federation had already been decertified and handed a six-month provisional suspension.
A WADA disciplinary committee was appointed to look at a the possible longer suspension or recertification.
Former WADA President Dick Pound, who headed the independent commission, said the probe found cover-ups, bribes to conceal positive tests, destruction of samples and evidence of Russian state security services of colluding with the country’s athletics federation to enable athletes to freely dope.
Russia were barred last week by the IAAF and can only return to athletics competition once they have proven they have set up a new framework to stop doping.
Israel, Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine were also found non-compliant of the WADA Code and can no longer conduct anti-doping programs.
Brazil, which will host next year’s Summer Olympics, France, Belgium, Greece, Mexico and Spain were placed on a compliance “watch list” and have until March to get their house in order and bring their anti-doping programs in line with the WADA Code.
While Russia and their athletics programme have been in the WADA crosshairs, Pound has repeatedly made it clear that Russia is not the only country and athletics not the only sport with doping issues.
“There have been a lot of calls for a more comprehensive investigation on the basis that it surely is not just athletics in Russia. But whether the WADA management will be able to do that or not I don’t know,” said Pound.
“Russia is not the only country in the world with this problem so let’s not try and make it look as though we think that is the case.
“We know about Turkey, we know about Kenya and we know about others so you have to be somewhat even-handed so you don’t look like you are picking on one country even if that country has a major problem.”
The foundation board heard from several members urging the global agency to do more and dig deeper.
Beckie Scott, a Canadian cross-country Olympic champion and chair of the WADA athlete committee, told the board that many athletes have asked her why the commission was focussed solely on Russia and Russian athletics.
“They’re saying, ‘Why not all sports?'” Scott told the board meeting via conference call. “We’re at a crossroads. We urge you to please consider the athletes and sports as a whole.”
(Editing by Frank Pingue)