Former WADA president Dick Pound is against imposing fresh sanctions on Russia for missing a deadline to allow World Anti-Doping Agency experts access to its Moscow laboratory. "It's not the end of the world," former WADA president told AFP on Friday. Experts began copying data at Russia'a tainted testing centre on Thursday, at the second attempt after a failed first visit in December.
Moscow subsequently missed the December 31 deadline to give WADA full access to the lab data vital to implicate or clear athletes in doping cases. WADA's critics led by US anti-doping chief Travis Tygart have called for Russia to be punished a new, but Pound disagreed.
"The real objective in all of this was to get access to the lab and the data, and if it's a few days late it's not the end of the world. "I think it's more important to concentrate on the information and test it to make sure that it's complete and it's not been altered and then to see if there are cases of anti-doping that need to be followed up by disciplinary process." The 76-year-old Canadian lawyer stressed: "The strategic objective was to have access to the laboratory and the data and that's really what we want, and it looks like we now have that."
WADA's inaugural president from 1999 to 2007 said now that access had been granted the authenticity of the samples "was the big question". "But until you get the data you can't examine it in a forensic manner to see if it's complete and whether it's been tampered with. "So that's probably going to take a month or two months because there are 9,000 samples that we need to study." Pound strenuously defended WADA's much-criticised move in lifting sanctions imposed on Russia for state-sponsored doping in September before having access to samples. "We were stuck before, they were not moving, we were not moving," he explained.
"So the decision in September was here's a way to make progress." Turning to what might emerge from WADA's analysis of the Moscow lab's data Pound said: "If there are another 50 or 100 athletes caught doping right fine, that's embarrassing, but we need to get this chapter closed." WADA's conditional lifting of a ban on Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA albeit under strict conditions in September sparked controversy.
RUSADA was initially suspended by WADA in 2016 after an independent report by Professor Richard McLaren found that more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30 sports were aided by state?sponsored doping. Athletics' governing body the IAAF is the main international sports federation to maintain Russia's ban from track and field. The Russian athletics teams were barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships in London.
Tygart has already described Russia missing the December 31 deadline as a "total joke and an embarrassment for WADA and the global anti-doping system". He added: "In September, WADA secretly moved the goal posts and reinstated Russia against the wishes of athletes, governments and the public. "No one is surprised this deadline was ignored and it's time for WADA to stop being played by the Russians and immediately declare them non-compliant for failing yet again to meet the deadline."
(With inputs from agencies.)