By Steve Keating
BEIJING (Reuters) -Russia should not assume sanctions imposed for running a state sponsored doping programme will be automatically lifted when its suspension is completed at the end of year, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Wednesday.
For the third consecutive Olympics, Russian athletes will participate as neutrals at the Beijing Winter Games, barred from competing under their own flag, and WADA president Witold Banka did not rule out the possibility of that ban continuing.
Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) was ruled non-compliant by WADA in 2015 after a report found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
WADA announced sanctions on Russia in December 2019 that, among other things, barred it from flying its flag at major sporting events for a four-year period.
The sanctions, which were halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), came into effect only in December, 2020 after a Russia appeal and are set to end on Dec. 16 this year.
“I think it is too early to say I am happy and the chapter is closed. Let’s wait, this is an ongoing process,” Banka told Reuters, following a news briefing in Beijing.
“The rules are clear, RUSADA needs to follow the rules, the requirements and standards.
“So far they are doing it, we are in close contact with them. They strictly follow our rules but as I said this is an ongoing process, this is not the end of this chapter.
“At the end of the year we will need to say yes, RUSADA can be compliant. It is not the end of this process, it is too early to say definitely that they are compliant.”
The Russian delegation in Beijing, which includes 212 athletes, cannot display the country’s tricolour flag or any national emblems or symbols or have their national anthem played during medal presentations.
Their uniforms bear the logo of the Russian Olympic Committee – three flames in the colours of the national flag with the Olympic rings below them – instead of Russia’s flag.
Russian athletes were also the most tested going into the Games, with the International Testing Agency (ITA)saying a number of factors determined the pre-Games doping risk assessment, including their doping track record, the size of the team and their medal prospects.
Russia received the most pre-Games testing recommendations, ITA Director General Benjamin Cohen told reporters on Wednesday. They were followed by Germany, the United States, Canada and Norway. All five countries are winter sports powerhouses.
Russia has acknowledged shortcomings in its implementation of anti-doping rules but denies running a state-sponsored doping programme.
“RUSADA needs to follow the rules,” Banka added. “Now it is an ongoing process and too early to say there will be concrete results but the rules are very strict.
“If RUSADA wants to be compliant it has to follow the rules from the CAS decision and of course our standards.
“We are in touch with RUSADA and let’s wait for the end of the year.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating, additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Ed Osmond)