MOSCOW, Russian Federation, Sep 20 – The Russian government said on Thursday the decision by the world anti-doping body to lift sanctions on Russia’s anti-doping agency was the result of “enormous work” by Moscow to improve testing.
“We welcome WADA’s decision,” Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying after the World Anti-Doping Agency’s executive committee voted to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
“Russia confirms its adherence to the principles of clean sports competition,” she said.
“Over the past years Russia has done enormous work to create transparent and understandable measures to prevent doping,” she said, adding that these included criminal prosecution for those who force someone to take banned substances.
RUSADA chief Yury Ganus said that the reinstatement “opens the path to competitions for our athletes, our federations, moreover it creates an opportunity” to organise sports events in Russia.
Speaking in televised remarks, he added however that this was just the “first step” towards “rebuilding trust” in the Russian sports system.
WADA suspended RUSADA in 2015 after declaring it to be non-compliant following revelations of a vast Russian-backed scheme to avoid drug testers.
The decision to lift the suspension was announced at a WADA meeting in Seychelles on Thursday.
For several months, WADA believed that Russia had made progress in their anti-doping procedures since their suspension.
As well as changes in the leadership which were at the centre of the scandal when it broke, the authorities claimed they had toughened up the anti-doping policy, introducing criminal responsibility for doping.
In June 2017, WADA authorised RUSADA to conduct doping control programs again but under the supervision of Britain’s anti-doping agency.
Another key factor in Russia’s potential rehabilitation came in May when deputy Prime Minister and sports minister Vitali Mutko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, was ousted.
Mutko had been one of the chief targets of the bombshell McLaren report which lifted the lid on state-sponsored doping.
He was replaced by Golodets in a government reshuffle following the re-election of Putin.
When Ganus was appointed in August 2017, there were early indications of a shifting in the sands.
Russia’s anti-doping credit “is exhausted”, he said shortly after his election to RUSADA.
On Thursday, he reiterated that Russia can no longer afford “such scandals”, saying that “sportsmen must play by the rules”.
Russian officials also believe that the public apology for the scandal made by Russian Athletic Federation (Rusaf) president Dmitry Shlyakhtin was another positive sign.
Russian athletes have been banned from international competition by the IAAF and reinstatement is not guaranteed after WADA’s decision.
But Shlyakhtin, quoted by Interfax, said Thursday: “(I) look with optimism on the next steps to accelerate the reintegration process of the Rusaf.”
Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said Moscow “will do its utmost to ensure that all Russia’s obligations are fulfilled”.