‘Time really shrinking’ for Russia track and field to be cleared for Olympics
LONDON (AP) — The man who headed the doping investigation that led to Russia’s suspension from global track and field sees little evidence that the country is doing enough to win reinstatement in time for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Russia is running out of time to clean up its drug-testing program in order for its athletes to able to compete at the games in August.
“There has been a lot of bluster and blanket denial and saying, ‘You are picking on Russia,’ that sort of thing,” Pound said. “I can’t tell for sure whether they are taking this really seriously or they assume the problem will go away.”
The Russian track federation was suspended in November after a report by Pound’s independent WADA commission detailed systematic corruption and doping cover-ups in Russia. The International Association of Athletics Federations has laid down a series of criteria for the Russians to meet before they can be eligible for readmission.
“We thought at the time when we released the report that if they dropped everything and went full speed ahead on genuine reform they could probably get enough done to get back into Rio, but they have been dithering and procrastinating and I think that time is really shrinking,” Pound said in an interview on the sidelines of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Twickenham Stadium.
The IAAF’s governing council holds a two-day meeting beginning Thursday in Monaco, where officials will examine Russia’s efforts to reform. In addition, WADA still needs to declare Russia’s national anti-doping agency and anti-doping lab compliant with its rules before the country can return to the international fold.
“They’re aware of the amount of work that is necessary,” WADA president Craig Reedie said. “A big priority for us is the appointment of two independent experts to be in Moscow to help build the new RUSADA, and they are also aware of the timelines.”
Pound also cast doubt on Russia’s commitment in his speech to the conference.
“I don’t think they are devoting all their time and energy to getting where they ought to be,” he said. “There seems to be some evidence of changing the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
“It’s not just showing intent to change that’s going to get them readmitted,” Pound added. “There’s going to have to be verified action. It’s a considerable hurdle. If they haven’t put enough into it, and the IAAF and WADA are not satisfied, my guess is they may not make it back for Rio.”
Pound also reiterated his backing for Sebastian Coe, who became IAAF president in August. Coe has been under scrutiny because he served as a vice president under former president Lamine Diack, who is under criminal investigation in France on corruption charges related to doping cover-ups.
“I never thought it was fair to blame one person on the IAAF council for that,” Pound said, referring to Coe. ‘I think he’s had a very rough ride, mostly from (the media in) this country. That’s fair enough. The press is entitled to do that. I can think of nobody likely to do a better job in the present difficult circumstances.”