David Owen

There is only one viable subject for this week's blog and, yes, eagle-eyed readers will spot it is the same as last week's: the Russian doping crisis.

For one thing, a week is a long time in anti-doping politics, and some important details have changed.

You remember that key December 9 meeting at which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) top brass are to consider the recommendation from their Compliance Review Committee (CRC) that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be declared non-compliant (again)?

Well, it is no longer in Paris "due to general strike action" in the French capital and 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic host.

Instead, it will be in Lausanne, the Olympic capital, where, as every pupil knows, the trains can be relied upon to run on time.

In addition, a new event has been inserted into the calendar: the Eighth Olympic Summit, which will take place over a total of seven hours on (Friday) December 6 and (Saturday) December 7, also in Lausanne.

Actually, that is a somewhat misleading way of putting it: no doubt such an illustrious gathering was diarised months ago by the great and the good who attend it.

But details - including that there would "be NO media facilities at Olympic House" - were circulated to the, you know, media only on Monday.

IOC President Thomas Bach and his team know the next few weeks are crucial ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach and his team know the next few weeks are crucial ©Getty Images

This power conclave is potentially of much more than academic interest to followers of this sorry soap opera, since among the 24 Big Beasts of sport expected to attend are three members of the WADA Executive Committee (ExCo), whose December 9 deliberations are now so vital to the credibility of the war on doping, as well as a certain Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

You might recall that among the "consequences" proposed by the CRC for the alleged non-compliance with conditions subject to which RUSADA was reinstated in September 2018, was that no top ROC official attend any major event for four years.

You might also recall that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) response to the CRC recommendations included the observation that "the report does not indicate any wrongdoing by the sports movement in this regard, in particular the Russian Olympic Committee or its members".

If IOC members on WADA's ExCo are to take issue with anything on December 9, the implication of this might be, it is the proposed ban on ROC officials.

With the IOC Executive Board also meeting in Lausanne this week, there is likely to be much influential discussion of what the CRC has said in the five days remaining before the WADA ExCo gathers.

Bearing this in mind, what do we currently expect to happen?

Well, I would be extremely surprised if WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, in his last month in the role, and his 11 colleagues, six of whom represent public authorities and five, like Sir Craig, the Olympic Movement, did not agree to declare RUSADA once again non-compliant.

Indeed, there seem to be grounds for hoping that they might take this decision unanimously.

Whether or not they can bring themselves to also back the full eight-point list of proposed consequences seems more doubtful.

This is all rather new ground for WADA, but based on inquiries I have made, it seems that it probably would be possible for ExCo members to call a vote on individual aspects of the CRC proposals, including the suggested ban on ROC officials.

A WADA media release when RUSADA was reinstated in September 2018 includes a commitment from Sir Craig that, should the timeline for getting access to the required data and samples not be met, "the ExCo would support the CRC's recommendation to reinstate non-compliance".

Assuming that Sir Craig and Linda Helleland, the WADA vice-president, back the full list of CRC proposals, at least two public authority representatives would need to side with the remaining five-strong Olympic Movement contingent (technically one of them could abstain) for any measure to be voted down.

This does not seem to me completely out of the question.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, left, pictured alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, is expected in Lausanne for the Eighth Olympic Summit on December 6 and 7 @Getty Images
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, left, pictured alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, is expected in Lausanne for the Eighth Olympic Summit on December 6 and 7 @Getty Images

Even if the ExCo decides that there is some aspect of the CRC proposals that it cannot accept, however, it cannot immediately simply cross that bit out and press ahead with the rest.

Under paragraph 10.2.2 of the International Standard on Code Compliance by Signatories, it must send the change or omission back to the CRC.

Only if the CRC decides at that point to stick to its guns could the ExCo then force through what it wants by majority vote.

The truth, I suspect, is this: any outcome other than unanimous, or near unanimous, backing on December 9 for the full CRC proposals would be a public-relations disaster for the anti-doping movement.

Many are already upset that no blanket four-year ban of Russian athletes is on the table, although I personally believe the greater leniency proposed is both laudable and sensible.

Furthermore, I understand there are no plans for all CRC members to be present in Lausanne on Monday.

Any ExCo decision to try and amend the proposals would consequently entail a delay, making WADA - not for the first time - appear weak and triggering a barrage of criticism.

If the IOC and/or others decide privately that they really cannot agree to the proposed ban on ROC officials, or those on the flying of the Russian flag, or Russian bids for major events, then the intelligent approach would be to wait for the inevitable referral to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and hope that the legal process goes partly Russia's way.

It has already been suggested to me that it would be by no means an open-and-shut case. 

So, come what may, I do not expect the next few days, crowded as they are, to bring an end to this wretched saga which has blighted sport for far too long.

But, make no mistake, it is a Big Week, offering WADA perhaps a final chance to salvage its authority.