The start of a new year is supposed to bring about a clean start, new goals, and a fresh perspective. As the clocks began to countdown to midnight, it soon became apparent that a ‘clean start’ was not going to be happening with the Russians and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). On January 1st, the international media announced that the Russian authorities failed to provide access to the laboratory doping data by their year-end deadline [Yahoo Sports].
Back in September of 2018, Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was conditionally reinstated by WADA (which caused a great deal of controversy). One of the conditions for reinstatement for RUSADA was access to the laboratory data in Moscow that was implicated by WADA in the state-sponsored doping program (Side note: If you have not seen the Netflix Documentary Icarus, I highly recommend it). Apparently, when WADA officials visited the Moscow laboratory in December, the team was denied access to the raw data, and the inspection equipment the team used was not certified under Russian law.
Take a moment to consider the ridiculousness of this entire story, not just what has recently transpired (because let’s face it, no one is all that surprised by this news). Imagine the international outcry if the United States Secret Service, FBI, and CIA decided to ensure that a state-sponsored doping program remained unimpeded during the Olympic Games. Imagine that in this country, hundreds of American athletes had positive doping tests that were covered up and agents broke into the testing lab to manipulate or swap out samples. If this sounds a little far-fetched, welcome to the Russian doping program.
I am a staunch proponent of clean sport and believe that if an athlete, coach, federation, or country cannot adhere to rules that ensure athletes compete on a level playing field, they should not be allowed to compete. If they are, then what is the purpose of having the competition?
Circling back to the original story, I cannot state with a clear conscience that I am surprised by the latest news out of Moscow. Did anyone truly expect Russian Authorities to provide access to the raw data from its laboratory in Moscow? There is no incentive for them to do so because, as we have continued to witness, both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA will attempt to make deals behind the scenes to ensure that their athletes are competing at the major championships. Will this change for the 2020 Olympics? At this point, there is no strong evidence to believe any sort of substantive change is on the horizon.
What recourse does the international community have to address this issue? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to this question. Athletes, federations, and countries have all been vocal about their disapproval and have only made (at most) incremental progress. At this point, conversations about boycotting the Olympic Games if Russia is allowed to compete is the alternative that may force the IOC and WADA to actually take a hardline stance against Russia. If not, 2019 will be the same as 2018 in which minimal progress was even attempted.