LONDON (Reuters) - Russian Athletics needs to prove it can operate without interference from state security services if it is to compete on an international stage again, the author of an explosive anti-doping report said on Tuesday.
Russia was suspended from international athletics after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report accused its state security services of colluding with the country’s athletics federation to enable athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs with confidence test results would be suppressed.
Dick Pound, author of the WADA report, told the BBC Russia’s anti-doping laboratory and anti-doping agency needed to prove they could act freely of government pressure in order to bring an end to a state-sponsored drugs culture.
“They’ll have to find a new laboratory director that will satisfy the world anti-doping agency as to his or her ... willingness to make sure that the laboratory acts independently and is not subject to any pressures regarding the non-disclosure of positive samples,” he said.
“As far as the Russian anti-doping agency is concerned it’s a matter again of making sure that it operates independently of the government of Russia, even though it will be funded by it.”
The allegations marked Russia’s biggest sporting scandal in decades and could cost it a place at next year’s Rio Olympics. They also carry political resonance, international sporting prestige being an important element in President Vladimir Putin’s re-assertion of national identity.
Amongst the charges, the report said the presence of Russian security services in the Moscow anti-doping laboratory “actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation on laboratory process and staff”.
It said the WADA-accredited laboratory destroyed 1,417 samples shortly before an inspection.
As a result, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted overwhelmingly to suspend the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF). IAAF also stands accused of “systematic failures” and its former president Lamine Diack is under investigation on suspicion of corruption.
The scandal, and revelations of graft within soccer’s world governing body FIFA, point to broader problems of mismanagement and misconduct across international sport.
Asked by BBC Radio if he could see a “way out” for Russia, he replied: I think if there is a will there is certainly a way.
“While I don’t think you can necessarily change the culture that has developed over the years you can certainly change the conduct pretty quickly if you want to.”
Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Ralph Boulton