Russia may find itself locked out of competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea following a recent ruling from the World Anti-Doping Agency. The international agency tasked with monitoring and combating drugs in sports ruled Thursday that Russia remains "non-compliant" with its global anti-doping code, potentially jeopardizing the country's participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had previously been stripped of its "compliant" status because of its role in helping athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs skirt the rules. Russia appealed the ruling, but in reviewing the appeal, the World Anti-Doping Agency's 38-member foundation board ultimately opted to uphold the "non-compliant" decision, according to a statement released released Thursday.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, Russia failed to meet all of the conditions laid out in a roadmap detailing how the national anti-doping agency could have its "compliant" status reinstated. Among the conditions it reportedly failed to meet are acknowledging the existence of a state-sponsored doping program and allowing World Anti-Doping Agency officials access to a RUSADA lab in Moscow.
RUSADA Director-General Yuri Ganus claimed the international doping agency's ruling "wasn't a surprise," CNN has reported. According to the cable news network, Ganus claimed RUSADA had "carried out the roadmap step by step, tracking each stage," but that two unfulfilled conditions were "beyond our authority." Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov denounced some of the roadmap's criteria as having a "political character" shortly after the international body announced their ruling, R-Sport news agency reported.
The World Anti-Doping Agency initially ruled Russia to be "non-compliant" in 2015 after reportedly finding evidence of state-sponsored — or, in some cases, simply state-hidden — doping. A more than 300-page report released in November 2015 by an independent commission accused Russia of running one of the most extensive state-sponsored doping programs seen in recent years.
According to the report, more than 1,400 samples were destroyed by a lab, a number of athletes paid bribes to see their doping violations dropped or positive test results disappear, false samples were submitted on behalf of doping athletes, and Russia's secret service intimidated RUSADA lab workers to cover up positive tests. Russia's government has long denied the report's findings, calling it an unfounded conspiracy.
But in May 2016, former RUSADA director Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov admitted to having helped dozens of Russian athletes — including at least 15 known medal winners — dope up during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. According to the New York Times, Rodchenkov confessed to also facilitating an elaborate operation to replace the athletes' dirty urine samples with clean ones to cover up the athletes' doping in Sochi. Russia has also denied these allegations.
Amid calls to ban Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro entirely following Rodchenkov's claims, more than 100 Russian athletes were prohibited from competing, a move that shortened the nation's roster of athletes by nearly a third. The World Anti-Doping Agency's latest ruling has renewed debate over whether Russia should be barred from competing in the next Olympic Games completely or whether each of the nation's athletes should be investigated for eligibility individually.
According to World Anti-Doping Agency President Craig Reedie, it will be the International Olympic Committee who rules on whether or not Russian athletes will be barred from competing in Pyeongchang early next year. While the International Olympic Committee is expected to rule on the fate of Russian athletes during a board meeting in December, Reedie said Thursday there was still time for Russia to become compliant ahead of that meeting.
"There is time before [the IOC's] decision," CNN reported Reedie said. "There are potential for things to change."