June 16, 2020 / 1:56 PM / 17 days ago

Russia's RUSADA resumes sample collecting after COVID hiatus

A sign with the logo of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is on display outside its office in Moscow, Russia December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s anti-doping agency said on Tuesday it was restarting its collection of samples from athletes after halting testing activity due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

RUSADA, which had suspended testing in late March, said its doping control officers would all be tested for the virus and wear protective gear when coming into contact with athletes.

Russia has the third-highest number of infections in the world with more than half a million cases, something the authorities have attributed to a huge testing program that has seen more than 15 million tests carried out so far.

The authorities in Moscow, the area worst-affected, on Tuesday started authorizing the holding of sporting events as long as spectators occupy no more than 10% of any venue’s capacity.

RUSADA was suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2015 after WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.

The agency was conditionally reinstated as Russia’s recognized anti-doping body in September 2018, but it was declared non-compliant late last year after WADA found Moscow had provided it with doctored laboratory data.

Russia has appealed a four-year ban on its athletes competing at major international sporting events under their flag as punishment for that alteration of laboratory data.

Its case will be heard by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in November.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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