The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is set to be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee at its meeting next week after the organisation met the two outstanding compliance criteria, it was announced today.
In a statement, WADA said the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had recommended RUSADA be declared compliant when the Executive Committee meets in the Seychelles on Thursday (September 20).
A letter sent from the Russian Ministry of Sport to WADA fulfilled the first requirement - altered slightly from a public acceptance of the McLaren Report and its findings to an acceptance of the Schmid Commission report - as it "sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia".
The letter differs from a similar document sent on the eve of the last gathering of the Executive Committee in Montreal in May but its contents have not been revealed.
According to WADA, a "commitment" from Russia to provide data and access to the samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory via an independent expert was sufficient to meet the last remaining criteria "provided that the Executive Committee imposes a clear timeline for such process".
The announcement confirms that WADA has slightly softened the roadmap following suggestions the organisation made to Russia in a bid to end the protracted stalemate.
It marks a considerable u-turn from the previous recommendation from the CRC, published by BBC Sport yesterday, as the panel initially said RUSADA had not met the outstanding criteria.
The CRC has the ability to change its recommendation when new evidence or documentation emerges, however.
Should the Executive Committee follow the recommendation of the CRC, as they have done previously, it will end RUSADA's near three-year period in exile after the body was declared non-compliant in November 2015 following the revelations concerning state-sponsored doping in athletics.
It could also prompt Russia to be welcomed back by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as RUSADA compliance is key to their respective reinstatement criteria.
In a statement, IPC President Andrew Parsons - who called for a resolution to the impasse between RUSADA and WADA earlier this week - hailed the "tremendous progress" made and described the announcement as a "real breakthrough".
"The IPC will now await the final decision of the WADA Executive Committee on this matter before taking the next steps in relation to the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee," the Brazilian added.
STATEMENT | Additional signatories have been added to the UKAD Athlete Commission letter to @wada_ama President Sir Craig Reedie, including @paulajradcliffe, @KellySotherton and the @BritishCycling Rider Representative Commission. #NoUturnWADA#Im4CleanSport pic.twitter.com/MeHdxjKaKN— UK Anti-Doping (@ukantidoping) September 14, 2018
The decision is likely to be criticised by those who have called for the strict conditions of the roadmap to be maintained.
United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart, an outspoken critic of how the Russian doping scandal has been handled, said it "stank to high heaven" and accused WADA of supporting "the desires of a handful of sports administrators over the rights of millions of clean athletes".
Yesterday, a group of British athletes signed a letter sent by the UK Anti-Doping Athlete Committee to WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, which said reinstating Russia before the criteria had been adhered to would be a "catastrophe for clean sport".
The document was supported by countries including Canada and the United States.
"WADA should stop the sleight of hand and release the new CRC recommendation as well as any information received from Russia now showing they are compliant," Tygart said.
"To-date, no WADA officials have been given access to the Moscow Laboratory to access athletes' samples, and there has been no public acceptance of the McLaren Report - so it's no wonder clean athletes are shocked and outraged at WADA's sudden about-turn curiously just days before its crunch meeting, and one day after clean athletes came out in force across the world to implore WADA to respect their rights.
"Today, WADA has unequivocally told the world the type of organisation it is: one that supports the desires of a handful of sports administrators over the rights of millions of clean athletes.
"It is a sad state of affairs for this one-time respected organisation.
"If RUSADA are compliant then great, we now have all the data and samples at the Moscow laboratory and finally justice can be served in the hundreds of cases that have been derailed up to now.
"If not, the fix has obviously been in since the start."
insidethegames understands RUSADA were close to being declared compliant by the Executive Committee in May.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) and sports movement representatives within WADA extensively lobbied for Russian reinstatement after the country sent a letter to the global watchdog.
They claimed it constituted the public acceptance of the McLaren Report as outlined in the roadmap but Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov immediately cast doubt on that theory and denied they had backed down.
Russian officials have continually stated they would never accept the findings of the report from the Canadian lawyer, published in December 2016 and which led to athletes from the country being forced to compete as neutrals at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
The report detailed a "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system committed by Russia at major events including their home Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.
It is not clear when WADA will be given access to the samples and data at the Moscow Laboratory but that could be clarified at the meeting in the Seychelles.
"I was confident that sooner or later the WADA Committee would accept the huge work that Russia has carried out in the fight against doping," Kolobkov said following today's announcement, according to RT.
"We always aimed for cooperation, we did everything that depended on us, while acting according to Russian law.
"We are open to the maximum, because we have nothing to hide - only with shared efforts can we achieve such a result."