Wada chief weighs in on Russia’s Rio 2016 status, athletes prepare class action

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has reiterated its support for the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) decision to prevent Russian athletes from competing under their own flag at the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, while the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) has said its athletes are set to file a class action in the case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) next week.

The IAAF on Friday upheld a ban on Russian athletes competing at Rio 2016. The global governing body voted unanimously to uphold its ban, saying that the country had not made sufficient progress on reforming its doping controls. However, it changed its rules to clear a path for a small number of Russian athletes to participate under an independent flag, providing they could demonstrate they had been subject to doping controls outside their home country.

The IAAF initially believed it had the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the matter, but Tuesday’s Olympic Summit served to muddy the waters. The IOC this week said it “fully respected” the decision of the IAAF Council with regard to the specific situation of track and field in Russia.

However, IOC president Thomas Bach said any Russian athlete cleared by the IAAF or CAS can compete for the Russian Olympic Committee team under the Russian flag. In the latest statement on the matter, Wada president Craig Reedie (pictured) said: “Wada strongly believes that the IAAF decision must be upheld as it was articulated on June 17 by the IAAF Task Force. The IAAF Task Force report was clear – a significant culture change is required among Russian athletes, athlete support personnel, government and sport leaders.

“It is essential that tough measures be enforced to ensure that those involved understand the gravity of not embracing clean sport. Until the required cultural changes in Russia is well advanced through strong education and prevention programs; supported by independent doping control and robust compliance programs; Wada cannot assure clean athletes of the world that it is reforming.

“Wada also reiterates its support for the IAAF’s proposed rule amendment enabling Russian athletes to apply for eligibility, on an exceptional basis and subject to meeting strict criteria – in particular having been subjected to credible doping programs outside Russia – to compete in international competitions, including the Olympic Games, in an individual capacity as neutral athletes.”

Meanwhile, ARAF secretary general Mikhail Butov told Russian news agency Tass today: “A suit or suits will be submitted to CAS next week. It is also necessary to completely determine the legal direction, but we have generally formed a group of lawyers with whom we will work. Class actions will be filed for certain, but some individual suits are also possible.”

He added: “We are going to have consultations with these lawyers in the coming days. Then we will make the final decision.”

In other news, Wada has removed the Mexican national anti-doping agency from the list of signatories previously deemed non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. Wada said Mexico has drafted and adopted anti-doping legislation and regulations that are now deemed to be in line with the Code.

Wada had originally declared Mexico non-compliant in March, but admitted that the Mexican government had been taking steps to resolve the issue and said it was hopeful that the necessary work would be completed in the “very near future”.