© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President, Witold Banka attends the World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, June 11, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Banka said on Friday that the expiration of Russia’s doping ban next month does not mean the country’s anti-doping agency will automatically be reinstated.
The four-year ban from major international sport imposed by WADA on Russia for widespread, state-sponsored infringements of doping regulations was halved to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and expires in mid-December.
Speaking at WADA’s Foundation Board meeting in Montreal where he was unanimously re-elected for a second three-year term, Banka said there remained a number of conditions the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) still needed to meet.
“The process for reinstatement doesn’t end on the 17th of December, in fact the process only starts on that date,” said Banka. “Through the three phases of that process, compliance would be robustly assessed.
“And of course we will need to verify each and every one of the reinstatement conditions … not simply accepting anyone’s word for it.”
As laid out in the CAS decision, the first step in the process would be a WADA management assessment. From there, an independent compliance review committee assessment would take place before a WADA executive committee assessment and decision.
Banka made clear that documents provided by Russia would not be taken at face value and WADA would conduct any necessary follow-ups, which he said could involve further questions, interviews, site visits and in-person audits.
“We are not naive. We know that trust in Russia and it’s anti-doping system is extremely low and of course there is a reason for it,” said Banka.
“When you look at the past we can say that they committed the most awful crime against clean sport.”
Some Russians have continued to compete internationally as “neutral” athletes, including at the last two Olympic Games, but the isolation of the country caused by the Ukraine war has further complicated the process of ensuring doping compliance.