Senator presses agency for answers on Russian doping scandal

By Richard Lardner - The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee is pressing the World Anti-Doping Agency to explain why it delayed an investigation into allegations of systematic cheating by the Russian Olympic team.

In a seven-page letter sent Monday to agency’s president, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said a robust and sound anti-doping agency is indispensable to fairness in sports and the health and safety of athletes.

Yet the agency’s response to reports of an “elaborate state-sponsored doping program in Russia” call the agency’s strength and credibility into question, he told Sir Craig Reedie, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s president.

Thune said his committee’s staff has independently confirmed media reports that the agency was made aware of allegations of widespread government-sanctioned doping among Russian athletes in February 2010. But he says the agency did not set up an independent commission to investigate the claims until December 2014.

Reedie’s agency “must heed the calls from athletes and others to expand the scope of the ongoing investigation to include additional sports, other countries and previous games,” Thune wrote. “And, WADA must address claims that it lacks the procedures and independence to fulfill its mission to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sports.”

The International Olympic Committee on Saturday threw its support behind the decision to ban Russia’s track and field team from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and said it will take “further far-reaching measures” to crack down on doping ahead of the games.

The IOC said it “welcomes and supports” and “fully respects” Friday’s ruling by track and field’s world governing body to maintain its ban on Russia because of widespread doping. The IOC, which has ultimate authority over the Olympics, also noted that the IAAF has control over which track and field athletes are eligible to compete at the games.

Thune said his Senate committee interviewed a Russian whistleblower who made specific allegations of systematic cheating by the Russian team during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and earlier. The whistleblower, Thune wrote, alleged there was a “Vancouver List” similar to the list of medal-winning Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, “who defeated testing for use of performance enhancing drugs by means of an organized tampering operation.”

Thune told Reedie that since 2003 the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy has contributed more than $25 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency in the form of dues to protect the rights of athletes to participate in drug-free sports.

The Senate Commerce Committee has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over sports, according to Thune.

By Richard Lardner

The Associated Press

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