The World Anti-Doping Agency reinstated Russia on Thursday despite a wave of protests, ending the nearly three-year suspension of the country’s drug-testing program because of a state-sponsored doping scheme.
WADA’s decision after a vote of its 12-member executive committee was called “the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history” by the lawyer of the whistleblower who helped uncover Russia’s cheating.
WADA decided to reinstate Russia after backtracking on two key conditions it had set for reinstatement: That Russia accept a report that concluded state involvement in the doping and cover-ups, and that Russia give access to evidence stored in its discredited Moscow laboratory.
In announcing its decision to find the Russian Anti-Doping Agency compliant, WADA said it would be “subject to strict conditions.” There is now a “clear timeline” for Russia to grant WADA access to samples stored in its Moscow lab, WADA president Craig Reedie said, but no date was announced.
There was no mention of Russia publicly accepting a state-sponsored conspiracy to help its athletes win Olympic medals by doping.
Reedie said a majority of the executive committee voted to reinstate Russia but didn’t say what the vote count was.
Signs that WADA had suddenly softened its stance on Russia came last week when one of its key committees suddenly changed direction and surprisingly recommended Russia be reinstated. That led to fierce criticism from anti-doping figures — some from within WADA itself — and athletes from around the world opposed to Russia’s reinstatement.
Reedie’s vice president at WADA, Norwegian politician Linda Helleland, said she would not be voting for reinstatement.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was suspended in November 2015 after the doping scandal, which centered on helping Russian athletes win medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was revealed.
As recently as May this year, WADA and Russia appeared to be still in a stalemate with the country not accepting those two key conditions.
The move to suddenly reinstate was portrayed by some as WADA, and tacitly the International Olympic Committee, appeasing a sporting superpower unwilling to admit wrongdoing. The WADA executive board that decided on Russia’s reinstatement is made up of six members from the Olympic movement and six from government authorities.
“The United States is wasting its money by continuing to fund WADA, which is obviously impotent to address Russia’s state-sponsored doping,” said Jim Walden, the lawyer for whistleblower and former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov.