Anti-doping chief warns WADA that Russia return will be a tragic day for clean athletes

Warning to WADA | Travis Tygart: AFP/Getty Images/Roslan Rahman

The man who brought down disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has warned the World Anti-Doping Agency of open revolt if Russia is welcomed back into the athletics fold.

Russia was banned by WADA in November 2015, following an independent report into a doping programme linked all the way to the Kremlin, but they are likely to be reinstated by the body’s executive committee at a meeting in the Seychelles on Thursday.

But Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, told Standard Sport: “Athletes are speaking out like never before. They’re beginning to find their voice, they’re so frustrated and they’re understandably rallying. Athletes are realising they need to come together to provide results. That’s only going to get louder after Thursday.”

Tygart said giving Russia the all-clear, as is expected, would pave the way for other nations and athletes to turn to doping programmes.

“The message in all this seems to be you can run one of the most sophisticated doping programmes, you can influence power and create your own set of rules with no real consequences, to basically cheat your way to the top,” he said. We’re fools to think other countries and athletes aren’t looking at that and thinking, ‘Hey, we don’t need to play fair’. This is one of the most important decisions WADA has ever had to make and, if as it seems it goes down this route, it will be a tragic day for clean athletes.”

As part of the provision for their return, Russia had to acknowledge the McLaren report into state-sponsored doping and open up its Moscow laboratory to global doping chiefs. Neither of those criteria has been met.

Tygart also believes the executive committee, whose president is former International Olympic Committee vice-president Sir Craig Reedie, is too closely linked to the IOC and needs to be disbanded.

“WADA was in a stare-down with Russia and WADA blinked,” he said. “WADA can’t just be a service provider for the IOC. It needs to change its executive and be totally independent from sport. At the moment, the whole process just stinks.”

However, Reedie is insistent that WADA and the Russians have stuck to the agreed process. “We have not deviated from the road map,” said the Scot. “The Russian anti-doping agency has made massive strides to improve.”