LONDON, March 9 (Reuters) - Athletics superpower Russia is running out of time to eradicate doping and may not be able to send a track and field team to this year’s Rio Olympics, Dick Pound, chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission, said on Wednesday.
“There seems to be some evidence that they’re just changing deckchairs on the Titanic,” he told an anti-doping conference.
Russian athletes were banned from international competition after a report by Pound’s commission revealing widespread doping and graft with involvement of Russian and international athletics officials. Russian athletics authorities were ordered to carry out sweeping reforms to allow a lifting of the ban.
“My guess is Russia may not make it back for Rio. The IAAF and WADA are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead,” Pound said.
Last week a German TV documentary contained fresh allegations of malpractice in Russia’s anti-doping system.
Amongst the claims in Sunday’s ARD programme were that Russian coaches suspended in the worst corruption and doping scandal to hit the sport were still working in athletics, while others continued to provide banned substances to athletes.
“We said to them at the time if you stop complaining about the report you have a chance. Whether their progress is sufficient enough? I don’t think they are devoting all their time and energy into getting where they ought to be.”
Russia, second only to the United States in the sport’s pecking order, will be allowed to return to competition, including August’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, only when it can prove to WADA and the IAAF that it has met a series of conditions regarding its anti-doping operation.
The doping and corruption scandal is among the worst in athletics’ history and has put in question lucrative global sponsorship deals as well as results and medal awards in past international competitions.
WADA president Craig Reedie, who also addressed delegates, said governments and sports governing bodies, had to invest more to ensure their sports were clean.
“Here we are in sport awash with money, but I‘m very perplexed there isn’t more cash for anti-doping,” he said. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ralph Boulton)