The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

WADA: Lab data retrieved and being moved out of Moscow

Associated Press Thursday, 17 January 2019, 20:56 Last update: about 2 months ago

Experts from the World Anti-Doping Agency have finished retrieving data from the Moscow lab that could lead to sanctions against Russian athletes implicated in the country's wide-ranging doping conspiracy.

WADA announced Thursday that the data has been transferred out of Russia for analysis by agency experts. WADA president Craig Reedie called it "a major breakthrough for clean sport," though his organization hasn't yet confirmed whether the data is genuine or has been tampered with.

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WADA must still decide whether to rescind the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's compliance. RUSADA was reinstated last September with the caveat that all the data be retrieved from the lab by Dec. 31. But Russia sent WADA experts home empty-handed before the deadline, only for them to return last week. The second mission took a total of nine days, more than twice as long as WADA and Russian authorities had predicted, with no explanation given for the delay.

WADA's compliance review committee is reviewing the case and will send its recommendation to the executive committee, which will decide RUSADA's status next Tuesday. Many Western athletes and anti-doping organizations have said RUSADA should be suspended regardless because Russian authorities missed the Dec. 31 deadline.

If RUSADA is again stripped of its compliant status, new rules mean Russia could be barred from hosting major international sports events until the situation is resolved. The previous RUSADA suspension was under old rules which didn't allow WADA to influence events like Russia's hosting of the soccer World Cup last year.

According to the Moscow lab's former director Grigory Rodchenkov, now WADA's star witness against Russia, the lab was the center of a vast scheme to ensure Russian elite athletes could dope without risking punishment. Hundreds of pages of e-mails released by WADA describe a system where tests were routinely falsified, and Rodchenkov says he personally tampered with samples — on orders from the Sports Ministry — when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014.

WADA is still analyzing what it called an "enormous" backup file from the lab, "to ensure it is complete and that it has not been compromised," Reedie said. WADA can check the data against an unauthorized copy it obtained in 2017, but which wasn't considered strong enough to launch doping cases on its own.

The lab and its data have been sealed off by Russian law enforcement, whose own investigation has largely focused on accusing Rodchenkov of lying and tricking innocent athletes into taking banned substances.

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