WADA’s first boss Dick Pound backs under-fire agency over Russian compromise

Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound has backed the organisation’s controversial decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, saying it will help prosecute more Russian cheats.

WADA’s executive committee voted to lift RUSADA’s ban at a meeting in the Seychelles on Thursday, prompting a furious response from athletes and national anti-doping agencies, who claimed it was a U-turn from an agreed “roadmap” which set out the conditions for Russia’s rehabilitation.

Many would have expected the outspoken Pound, who led WADA from its creation in 1999 to 2007, to join the chorus of condemnation but the former International Olympic Committee vice-president believes history will judge the deal more approvingly.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Pound said WADA has effectively excused Russia from having to publicly admit its cheating was sanctioned by the government in return for the country finally giving up the evidence needed to proceed with hundreds of anti-doping cases.

“The issue of access to the (Moscow anti-doping) lab is the key and it had been dragging on for years while the Russians conducted this criminal investigation – well, that was their excuse,” said Pound.

“WADA said ‘that’s got to stop, we need to put a stake in the ground’ and that is what we have now with this 31 December deadline (for handing over data from the lab).

“I think we are in a much better position to follow through with these cases now. We have a timeline, backed up by an automatic sanction.”

This refers to the threat in WADA’s reinstatement decision which says RUSADA will be declared non-compliant again if the data is not handed over to an independent expert by the end of the year, and stored samples are not released for re-analysis in any anti-doping cases by the end of June.

“Whether this was a case of muddling through or a calculated strategy by WADA, I don’t know, but it’s worked, and when the smoke clears I think people will realise this is a favourable deal,” said Pound.

A former Commonwealth swimming champion, the Canadian lawyer admitted WADA had not handled the communication of its negotiations with Russia “adroitly” but said he was surprised so many anti-doping experts had not realised how important it was to get all of the Moscow lab’s secrets.

“Access to the raw data was not explicitly mentioned in the roadmap and we will need it to get anti-doping prosecutions. If we had just got what we had originally asked for we would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle later on,” he said.

“But what I don’t understand is why anybody would think the one organisation that stood up to Russia, that conducted two investigations, that got the lab director sacked, RUSADA suspended and put up with all kinds of c**p from the IOC because of it, would suddenly roll over.

“Sometimes when you’re in the diplomatic arena you have to approach from the side, not head on.

“I would have loved to have won the hearts and minds of Russian athletes and convinced them that doping is the wrong thing to do, but if we can make them play fair because they think they will get caught, I don’t care, because it still gets us to clean sport.”

Pound’s support will come as a relief to Reedie and the rest of WADA’s leadership, particularly after the organisation’s former director general accused them of backing the financial interests of sports federations over clean athletes.

David Howman, who ran WADA for 13 years from 2003, told Press Association Sport he was “disappointed” with the RUSADA deal.

“This looks like they have taken the decision to deviate from a carefully put-together roadmap for entirely pragmatic reasons,” the New Zealand-born lawyer said.

“WADA has gone from being an organisation that cared about clean athletes to one that cares about international federations that have not been able to stage events in Russia: it’s money over principle. That is a quite a difference, quite a swing, from what WADA once was.”

The IOC prevented its member federations from staging events in Russia while RUSADA was suspended and one consequence of Thursday’s decision is that WADA did not have to declare international boxing federation AIBA non-compliant for giving its 2019 World Championships to Sochi.

Olympic chief Thomas Bach has been pushing WADA hard to make such headaches go away and all six IOC representatives on the 12-strong ExCo voted for RUSADA’s reinstatement, with IOC member Reedie also backing it.

Howman, however, has little faith in Russia’s willingness to suddenly cooperate, or with WADA’s stomach for another fight.

“Let’s say they rock up there and there are no data or samples, or the Russian police restrict access to them,” he said.

“What will WADA do then? Will they really vote to declare RUSADA non-compliant again? Normally with a conditional deal you wait for the conditions to be met before saying it has been satisfied, not the other way around.

“I think some people have tried to be too legally cute and they are assuming the other party will respect the niceties of British law. That is not the experience here.”

- Press Association

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