After doping scandals, Russia reformed testing agency

CANOE.COM – After almost two years under suspension, the Russian anti-doping agency wants to show it’s capable of cleaning up a tainted sports scene.

The agency, known as RUSADA, boasts of anti-corruption training and a newfound respect for whistleblowers — a group vilified by top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

Senior staff talk of “the new RUSADA,” eager to distance their organization from one that was effectively shut down by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2015 over allegations that key staff were covering up for doping athletes rather than exposing them.

Even as Russia came under pressure for what WADA called a vast doping system which corrupted the 2014 Winter Olympics, the number of tests carried out in the country plunged. All samples had to be collected by foreign-based organizations and sent abroad for processing, reducing the scrutiny on many Russian athletes.

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In June, WADA gave RUSADA the power to test athletes again, and both organizations are under pressure to ensure Russia can catch its own drug cheats.

“RUSADA is a totally new organization,” acting CEO Tatyana Chirkina said this week. “RUSADA has very extensively changed its staff, set up a new supervisory board with a chair, and changed its founding documents. A lot of work has been done.”

The agency hasn’t formally been reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency — and won’t be unless Russia’s government admits at least some level of culpability in past doping coverups.

Still, it’s functioning largely on its own, though must provide information constantly to officials from WADA and the British anti-doping agency, which is tasked with helping the reforms.

Crucially, Chirkina said RUSADA has established an investigations unit of “up to 10 people” focused on following up on tipoffs about drug use.

Whistleblowers are often viewed with suspicion by Russian athletes, and Putin has likened them to Soviet citizens who denounced others to the secret police during Joseph Stalin’s purges in the 1930s.

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