Liam Morgan

Yuri Ganus has not been afraid of ruffling a Russian feather or two during his eventful tenure as head of the country's troubled national anti-doping agency.

Among the most notable soundbites from Ganus in recent years include a warning that Russian sport was "flying into an abyss" after the nation was found to have manipulated data from the Moscow Laboratory, and how the tampering showed that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) "had been a victim of forces outside" the organisation.

He remains the only official to have acknowledged the data had been tampered with and has repeatedly blamed unnamed Russian officials for doctoring the data handed over to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Ganus also conceded in October last year that "thousands" of changes had been made to the data before it was retrieved by the global watchdog.

Ganus, appointed RUSADA director general in August 2017, has also taken aim at the Russian Athletics Federation, calling for change at the very top amid its ongoing period in exile following the doping scandal.

The list of examples of forthrightness, defiance and publicly contradicting powerful higher-ups in Russia from Ganus during his three years in the RUSADA hotseat is endless. There are simply too many to document fully.

It is this honesty which is surely among the reasons why the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) are so desperate to get rid of him.

RUSADA director general Yuri Ganus has not been afraid to air his grievances with the media ©Getty Images
RUSADA director general Yuri Ganus has not been afraid to air his grievances with the media ©Getty Images

As former Jamaican anti-doping chief Renee-Anne Shirley said on Twitter, quotes that "are a hit in the Western international media doesn't build support and backing at home when you are trying to effect change in an agency".

Ganus’ outspoken nature, which appears to have finally caught up with him, has led to the RUSADA director general becoming somewhat of a thorn in the side of the likes of the ROC and the Russian Sports Ministry.

While Russia has little regard for what the international community thinks about its affairs, it is not unreasonable to link his propensity for a good line in the press to the powers-that-be wanting to sack him from his post.

The motives for the recommendation from the RUSADA Supervisory Board, made after an audit conducted by the ROC and RPC revealed a "number of significant irregularities in the financial and economic activities" of the organisation, are questionable at best.

Given the amount of deception and corruption in Russian sport throughout this sordid affair, it is difficult to believe the reasoning is honest and genuine.

The audit was commissioned in the wake of allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest levelled at Ganus and RUSADA, made on the instant messaging platform Telegram, and seemingly came out of nowhere.

The timing is also a surprise. It is not as if Ganus has only just started a media offensive against those he feels are responsible for the crisis Russian sport finds itself in.

It has nonetheless paved the way for a decision which Ganus - who said the audit was unreliable and showed "probable signs of deliberate fabrication of false evidence" - believes could have ramifications for RUSADA even before its appeal against the four-year package of sanctions imposed by WADA is heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport later this year.

"The decision cannot but be disappointing given the likely consequences of RUSADA's non-compliance even before the CAS decision in November," Ganus told insidethegames following the Supervisory Board vote yesterday.

The RUSADA chief has been a frequent critic of the Russian response to the doping scandal ©Getty Images
The RUSADA chief has been a frequent critic of the Russian response to the doping scandal ©Getty Images

On the surface at least, the recommendation to sack Ganus - who is far from everyone’s cup of tea, it must be said - is another classic example of Russia shooting itself in the foot when it comes to anti-doping and its protracted battle to shrug off its status as a sporting pariah.

Not only has Ganus taken steps towards repairing the shattered reputation of RUSADA, but his pending dismissal has also attracted the ire of WADA, which said it was "extremely concerned" by the Supervisory Board recommendation.

WADA is also clearly unhappy with the audit and the reasons behind it. WADA has written to Supervisory Board chairman Alexander Ivlev after raising concerns over "potential interference in RUSADA’s operations and seeking to clarify how and why this audit was carried out".

The global watchdog said the reply from Ivlev did not answer its questions and its concerns had not been allayed.

The last line of the statement is also important. "WADA will seek further clarification from the Russian authorities and consider any other steps that may be required after discussing the matter with the Compliance Review Committee," WADA said.

Part of the eventual reinstatement criteria for RUSADA, declared non-compliant again in December, is WADA "remaining satisfied that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations".

The audit, many would argue, constitutes the very interference WADA has warned could impact RUSADA’s bid to be reinstated in future.

WADA said it was
WADA said it was "extremely concerned" by the Supervisory Board recommendation ©Getty Images

Independence is a trait often called for in sports administration, usually by the very same people who are unable to provide a clear definition of what exactly it should look like.

In RUSADA’s case, its founders are the ROC and RPC, the organisations which carried out the audit and are likely to swing the final - metaphorical - axe on Ganus’ employment with the agency.

The fact that decisions which directly impact RUSADA are made by the ROC and RPC hardly screams independence, even if the founders are not necessarily involved in the anti-doping body’s day-to-day operations.

Politics have played a huge part in the lead-up to the Supervisory Board meeting and the vote itself. The ROC, the RPC and the Sports Ministry want him gone and will almost certainly get their way.

ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov has not directly confirmed he will move to oust Ganus from the important position but said in a statement yesterday that "to deep regret, our fears have been confirmed".

These fears pale into insignificance when compared with those Ganus might understandably be feeling, given the fate suffered by his predecessor and the founding chairman of RUSADA.

Nikita Kamayev, the former executive director of RUSADA, died following a heart attack in February 2016 - just a fortnight after founding chairman, Vyacheslav Sinev, passed away under suspicious circumstances.

For Ganus, who has signalled his intent to fight to retain his position, losing his job is clearly the preferable option.