The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday that Russia remains “non-compliant” with its Code, dealing a major blow to the country’s hopes of being cleared to compete at February’s Winter Olympics.
Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) has been suspended since a 2015 WADA report found evidence of state-sponsored doping and accused it of systematically violating anti-doping regulations.
WADA set out a roadmap for Russia to regain its status but at a meeting of its Foundation Board in Seoul on Thursday decided that key criteria had not been met.
WADA President Craig Reedie said the Board approved the recommendation by the Independent Compliance Review Committee that RUSADA remain non-compliant as two key requirements for reinstatement had still not been fulfilled.
“Having set a road map for compliance, there are two issues that have to be fulfilled and we can’t walk away from the commitments,” Reedie told reporters, adding that the RUSADA has made improvements.
Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritius had also been found non-compliant by the Board, it added.
The decision is likely to add more pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian athletes from the 2018 Winter Games.
Russia escaped a blanket ban at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro but remains barred from competing in international athletics events.
The IOC is set to decide on Russia’s participation at its executive board meeting early next month.
“WADA’s decision to maintain suspension on Russia anti-doping agency doesn’t directly decide whether the country can participate in the games,” said Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Pyeongchang organising committee (POCOG).
“It is a sensitive issue, and we are waiting for IOC’s official decision for now.”
Countries and sports federations must be compliant with the WADA Code to be eligible for the Olympics, with the IOC making the ultimate decision on participation.
The IOC banned six cross-country skiers this month as part of an investigation into allegations of widespread doping and sample-tampering by laboratory and security officials at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov hit out at the WADA decision, saying some of the criteria for RUSADA’s reinstatement had a “political character,” R-Sport news agency reported.
On Wednesday, Kolobkov had said Russia had done everything in its power to get reinstated.
A 2016 report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren found that more than 1,000 Russian competitors in more than 30 sports were involved in a conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over a five-year period.
WADA said last week that it had obtained a database confirming the allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping made in the McLaren report.
Despite repeated calls for cooperation with international bodies to help rid Russia of doping, local authorities have never acknowledged any state involvement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the allegations were an attempt to sow discontent ahead of the country’s presidential elections.
Alexander Zhukov, president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said on Thursday they could not meet any criteria that called for the country to accept that the state was involved in doping.
“There was not and is no system of state support (for doping) in Russia,” the Interfax news agency quoted Zhukov as saying on Thursday.
“This cannot be accepted.”