WADA Director General Olivier Niggli says the Russian National Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is moving in the right direction to be reinstated, after visiting the organization in Moscow last week. He added, however, that there is still work to be done.
“I think RUSADA has made a lot of changes over the past year,” Niggli told TASS.
“As you know, we have worked hard with the Russian authorities, the Ministry of Sports, RUSADA to bring forward the necessary changes. So RUSADA has changed from a structural point of view. There is a new board and the financing is now coming from the Finance Ministry, not from the Sports Ministry.
“On the more practical level, RUSADA has rebuilt the organization – they have recruited new people, they have started redoing the education program, and just today they are going to start reorganizing of performing the testing. This was done, this was part of our roadmap and this was accepted by our board two months ago,” he added.
Niggli also noted that WADA is willing to work with two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who served as chair of the RUSADA supervisory board for several months but had to step down in order for the body to follow the WADA roadmap, being replaced by Alexander Ivlev.
Isinbayeva took up the position at the nomination of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in March. WADA, however, pointed out that due to the nature of her nomination, which might lead to a conflict of interest, she could not be seen as an independent chairperson.
WADA suspended RUSADA from carrying out doping controls within Russia in November 2015, in the wake of a doping scandal, but later provided the organization with a roadmap to re-compliance.
Among other things, one of the key points for restoring RUSADA’s credibility involved the work of international experts in the agency.
The positions were filled by Australian Peter Nicholson, who specializes in international criminal investigations, and Ieva Lukosiute-Stanikuniene from Lithuania, director of the Lithuanian Anti-Doping Agency and Chair of the Council of Europe Advisory Group on Education.
At the end of June, RUSADA was granted permission to plan and coordinate doping testing under the supervision of WADA-appointed international experts and the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD).
“Now they (RUSADA) have about 40 doping control officers that are trained, ready to go,” the WADA director general said.
“All this, I would say to make it short, goes in the right direction.
“I visited RUSADA in Moscow on Tuesday and I found that there was a very good group of people there, motivated, willing to do the job. And I found it very encouraging.”
Answering a question if RUSADA could be reinstated following the WADA board of founders’ meeting in November, Niggli said that the possibility exists, but all the aspects of its work will be estimated and evaluated to ensure everything is structured according to the roadmap, adding that there is still a lot to be done in this regard.