ATHLETICS NEWS - Russia's sports minister on Thursday said that experts from the World Anti-Doping Agency have begun procedures to copy data of the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, their second attempt to do so.
The team of WADA experts arrived in Russia Wednesday to complete the promised extraction of data, including results of doping tests, part of the long-running attempt by Moscow to clear accusations of state-sponsored doping.
The experts "started working with a group of Russian experts today", sports minister Pavel Kolobkov told Russian press agencies. Representatives of the tainted Moscow lab as well as Russian investigators were also present, he said. "They began the work to assemble equipment," Kolobkov added.
"The work is carried out in full coordination. We have no doubt that the process will continue as planned." WADA previously came to Moscow in December but could not retrieve the data due to an unspecified problem with equipment. Moscow subsequently missed the December 31 deadline to give WADA full access to the lab data vital to implicate or clear athletes in doping cases.
Kolobkov assured Thursday that the problem had been fixed and argued that the delay was not Russia's fault. US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart said that despite Thursday's developments, Russia should still be declared non-compliant as they had missed the original December 31 deadline.
"We remain vigilant to ensure a full public disclosure and accounting that the evidence obtained on the approximately 9,000 presumptive positive drug tests which exists in the laboratory is authentic and valid and that justice is served for clean athletes in each and every case," he said.
"It is in the clear public interest that WADA does this openly and transparently." In September, WADA conditionally lifted a ban on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), after it was suspended for a state-sponsored doping operation. This paved the way for Russian athletes to return to competition across all sports. But one of the conditions was data access by the end of 2018.
WADA's leadership has been strongly criticised over its decision to lift Russia's suspension before obtaining access to the Moscow lab. The International Association of Athletics Federations said it would maintain Russia's ban from track and field. The Russian athletics teams were barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships in London.