WADA “does not have the answer” on the smooth running of the fight against doping in Russia
Each year, the World Anti-Doping Agency brings together all of its players during its Symposium. This Tuesday and Wednesday, at the Swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne (Switzerland), the conferences are therefore linked. Time also for Olivier Niggli, the director general of the body, to return to the situation of Russian athletes, still banned from international competitions for organized doping.
“What is the current anti-doping situation in Russia and does the armed conflict with Ukraine affect what you want to put in place?
The armed conflict, as such, the moral aspect of things, is not supposed to influence the work that we do from an anti-doping point of view. We follow a process that is in place, with a number of things that need to be done. If it works at the level of the Russian Agency (RUSADA), it works, armed conflict or not. Where it becomes more complicated is that to ensure and have confidence in the fact that it works and that the information we receive is good, we must be able to validate it.
And today, we can’t because we’re not going to send people to Moscow for an audit, for understandable reasons. Potentially, we are not in a position, today, to have all the answers. But we are in the process of evaluating all the information we have and seeing how it can be articulated around an agenda. The question is: can we trust the Russian anti-doping organization or not? We don’t have the answer.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency notably publishes figures on its controls, do you nevertheless have elements which show that the fight exists?
They continue to do tests, they never stopped. In Russia, the system still works. The samples leave the country to be analyzed in laboratories (in Turkey and Doha in particular). The system works and it is possible for international federations to test athletes in Russia. We have no objective elements that suggest that the work is not well done. There is no more laboratory (WADA accredited) in Russia, so the samples are analyzed elsewhere. But we don’t have any elements either to check on site if all that is really 100% functional.
“We have no rules to say that you need a minimum of tests to participate in a competition”
Do you have an agenda in mind regarding the possible reintegration of Russia for the Paris Olympics in 2024?
The presence of the Russians at the Olympics is not a question concerning anti-doping. The idea of thinking that there are no tests on Russians, is not true. They are tested. There are no criteria to say that on such a date, X athletes must be tested. Doing tests is not an eligibility criterion. The question of eligibility is a question that arises from the International Federations and is not directly linked to testing. There are no rules to say that you need a minimum of tests to participate in a competition.
Besides Russia, Kenya is also affected by numerous cases of doping, what is your view of the situation?
There is an outbreak of cases in Kenya but there are a lot of things being done. There is a strong commitment from the Kenyan government who realized they were on the brink. There is a functioning Kenyan anti-doping agency, with greater resources today which should allow them to do much more than they did in the past. They work in collaboration with the IAU (Athletics Integrity Unit). In Kenya, things are moving in the right direction. I think there was a real awareness. I hope the future will confirm it. It is to be continued. »