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Rio 2016 Olympics: WADA in the crosshairs, as IOC members fume at late response

WADA has been criticised by members of the International Olympic Committee for not acting on information from whistleblowers.

By: Reuters | Rio De Janeiro |
August 2, 2016 9:57:09 pm
Rio 2016 Olympics, Rio Olympics 2016, 2016 Rio Olympics, WADA IOC doping, Doping whistle blowers, Doping Olympics, Olympics Doping, Sports WADA chief Craig Reedie has defended his organisation’s actions. (Source: Reuters)

The World Anti-Doping Agency was told it needed to restore its reputation as the war of words over the timing of its response to the Russian doping scandal escalated on Tuesday.

WADA has been criticised by members of the International Olympic Committee for not acting on information from whistleblowers of widespread doping in Russia until it became public through the media last year.

As a result, a WADA-commissioned report on the extent of the abuse, was published in July, leaving the IOC to make a decision on whether Russian athletes could participate in the Rio Games just weeks before they were due to open.

The scandal has led to dozens of Russian athletes being banned from the Olympics, which begin on Friday, including essentially the entire track-and-field team.

But the IOC has come under fire for not imposing a blanket ban on Russian athletes, despite the report revealing systematic state-backed doping in the country.

WADA chief Craig Reedie, who is also an IOC Vice President, has defended his organisation’s actions, saying it acted once concrete facts were made available.

But at Tuesday’s IOC session the fire was turned back on WADA.

Alex Gilady, of Israel, told fellow IOC members: “Already in 2010 the whistleblower came to WADA. They said they didn’t know what to do with this.”

“One has to scratch his head if WADA says they did not know what to do with whistleblowers who came to them with clear information and just left it. So whistleblowers had to go somewhere.”

Gilady was referring to middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, who had written to WADA, repeatedly offering evidence of state-backed doping in Russia, but ended up providing the information to German broadcaster ARD which produced several documentaries revealing the scandal.

“It is not the reputation of the IOC that needs to be restored but the reputation of WADA,” Gilady said.

VEILED CRITICISM

Reedie sat through the fiery session but said he would respond when he presented his report later.

Several national anti-doping agencies and athletes groups had accused the IOC of failing to show leadership at a crucial time.

But in another veiled criticism of WADA, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Given our remit, it is not the IOC that is responsible for the accreditation and supervision of anti-doping laboratories.

“It is not the IOC which can be held responsible for alleged corruption between the leadership of an international federation and a national member federation to cover up doping.

“The IOC has no authority over the testing programme of athletes outside the Olympic Games. The IOC has no authority to follow up on information about the failings of the testing system.”

Calls for an all-out ban on Russian competitors in the wake of the report were overruled by the IOC, which instead set a number of criteria, including a spotless doping record and sufficient international doping test, for Russians to be cleared to compete in Rio.

But Argentine member Gerardo Werthein said it was WADA that had failed, saying the organisation was more interested in self-promotion.

“I believe that this delay by WADA and the failure to investigate serious and credible allegations more swiftly has left the sports movement … in a very difficult position facing incredibly difficult decisions in an impossible timeframe.

“At times WADA has seemed to be more interested in publicity and self-promotion rather than doing its job as a regulator, acting with transparency, and looking after the best interest of clean athletes.”

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