Mike Rowbottom @ITG

At least no one could argue with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s point of view this time.

As it correctly points out, "only one side of the story was heard" in the emergency anti-doping summit held yesterday at the White House in the wake of WADA’s controversial decision in September to re-instate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).

The White House witnessed a succession of impassioned statements from athletes and others involved in sport testifying to a widespread sense of anger and betrayal over the issue and a growing impatience with the case WADA has attempted to articulate.

Former Russian athlete-turned-whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova, now living in hiding in the United States after providing information that revealed doping activities in her home country, commented: "I feel that my husband and I are not just fighting doping but are increasingly fighting IOC (International Olympic Committee) and WADA. We now know WADA does not follow its own rules, even though athletes are asked to."

Emma Coburn, America's world 3,000 metres steeplechase champion, added: "WADA has failed the athletes.

"It has bullied and disheartened athlete voices."

Britain's Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner, one a group of athletes to have endorsed a complete shake-up of WADA, accused WADA's leadership of "suppressing and demeaning athlete voices".

Meanwhlle WADA vice-president and Norwegian Minister for Children and Equality Linda Helleland - present in an independent capacity - said in her opening address: "Athletes have started a march.

"A march for transparency, independence and change."

The emergency anti-doping summit meeting held at the White House in Washington D.C. yesterday was highly critical of the World Anti-Doping Agency, calling for its urgent reform ©Twitter
The emergency anti-doping summit meeting held at the White House in Washington D.C. yesterday was highly critical of the World Anti-Doping Agency, calling for its urgent reform ©Twitter

WADA has openly asserted that some of the criticism it has received following its decision has been politically motivated, suggesting that well-meaning athletes have been used in the campaign. Paranoid? There may be some truth in it. Patronising? Certainly.

Setting aside for now the attitude of WADA - and essentially the attitude of the IOC - towards athletes supposedly brought in to help oversee governance, no one can doubt the sincerity of the views expressed yesterday. Whether they correspond or not to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s world view is not of primary importance.

Let’s just recap some of the key points that have brought us to this position.

WADA declared RUSADA to be non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code in November 2015 as a result of a WADA investigation that identified widespread corruption in its activities.

A subsequent WADA report identified the full extent of cheating in Russia and recommended suspension of Russia from the 2016 Rio Olympics - something that was accepted by the International Paralympic Committee, but not by the International Olympic Committee.

While 29 of the 31 criteria points for RUSADA’s return to the fold were achieved, progress stalled with Russia failing to accept the findings of WADA’s McLaren Report and not allowing access to the Moscow anti-doping lab, where much evidence is thought to be stored.

The compromise agreement announced in September saw Russia's acceptance of the IOC'sSchmid Report prove sufficient, rather than the McLaren Report, while Russia is now required to ensure data from the Moscow Laboratory is handed to WADA by no later than December 31 of this year.

WADA has also demanded it be given the chance to re-analyse "any samples as required by WADA", no later than June 30 next year.

In theory, access to the data would assist WADA in sanctioning athletes who have been implicated in the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), already accessed by WADA.

WADA is still awaiting access to samples stored in the Moscow anti-doping laboratory ©Getty Images
WADA is still awaiting access to samples stored in the Moscow anti-doping laboratory ©Getty Images

Should Russia fail to meet the deadlines, RUSADA could again be declared non-complaint, WADA insist.

This could lead to stronger sanctions than before, including the country being prohibited from staging international events, due to new standards being introduced by WADA in April.

When no less a man than Richard Pound, long-time scourge of IOC corruption and the driving force behind the establishment of WADA, for whom he was the first President, describes the current position vis-à-vis Russia as something worthy of celebration, it is worth listening to his reasoning.

In a blog re-published on the insidethegames site on September 29, Pound asserted, in characteristically unpredictable fashion:

"What should have been hailed as a victory by WADA has attracted a firestorm of negative comment, led by a group of national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) that should know better and by athletes who have been provided with misinformation or only partial information."

That last phrase was echoed by the IOC President, Thomas Bach, earlier this month as he claimed at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires that the "ball was now in Russia’s court" and it was "up to them".

Pound’s argument continued: "Media accounts suggest that WADA has caved in on its responsibilities and that Armageddon has occurred with respect to anti-doping. This has generated much heat, but no light. It is also dead wrong.

"First, what has actually happened? WADA has not, as bellowed, welcomed Russia with open arms. WADA's role is to try to ensure that there is a competent and reliable NADO in Russia. It has, therefore, determined that a revamped RUSADA will be allowed, under external supervision, to conduct tests in Russia."

Adding that WADA had been prepared to "cut Russia some slack" regarding which report they acknowledged, Pound highlighted the WADA approach to laboratory access as the key point:

"…in addition to getting computer files, WADA added the matter of access to the laboratory's raw data relating to the samples. Such raw data will be needed to assert anti-doping violations. All this is to happen by December 31, 2018.

"The first outcome was acceptable. The second materially improved WADA's ability to follow up on samples to which it has had no access."

Former WADA President Richard Pound has been strongly critical of Russian sport and the IOC in the past - but believes the latest deal involving the renewal of compliance for RUSADA is an advantageous and valuable one ©Getty Images
Former WADA President Richard Pound has been strongly critical of Russian sport and the IOC in the past - but believes the latest deal involving the renewal of compliance for RUSADA is an advantageous and valuable one ©Getty Images

All good then. But why has Russia resisted for so long the granting of access to the contents of the Moscow laboratory because of an “ongoing police investigation”? What is the status of this investigation? Why has it been possible to conclude it now that RUSADA has been re-admitted to the fold?

And what might be happening to samples kept in the Moscow laboratory over the next six months?

Pound has used the analogy that Russia is tied to a post by WADA’s latest actions.

The truth is that it is WADA that is now tied to a post.

Russia gives full access to raw data by December 31. WADA uses that test samples by June 30, 2019 that lead to prosecutions and clearances. Two and two makes four. On we go to a better, fairer sporting world…

But if it doesn’t happen that way…will WADA follow through and declare RUSADA, once again, non-compliant?  A decision that would surely not be supported by the IOC, if one accepts Pound’s view:

"WADA recommended that Russia be kept out of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The IOC rejected the proposal out of hand, dismissing the reasoned findings of the WADA report as 'mere allegations'.

"It then dumped its own responsibility regarding participation in its event - the Olympic Games - on the International Federations, many of which declined to sanction any, or only token, Russian athletes.

"The IOC eventually suspended the Russian National Olympic Committee just before the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, once its own investigation duplicated the WADA findings.

"It nevertheless allowed Russian athletes to participate as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia' - hardly an onerous sanction for the egregious Russian misconduct - and lifted that suspension with conspicuous haste at the end of the Games.”

For some reason I’m thinking of a conversation in George Orwell’s 1984:

 "You are a slow learner, Winston."
"How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."
"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once."