Sport

‘Cheat and you’ll get away with it’: Canadian athletes sound off on WADA decision to reinstate Russia

Canadian athletes are not mincing their words when it comes to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to reinstate Russia’s drug-testing program after a nearly three-year suspension over its widespread, state-sponsored doping scheme.

“I’m profoundly disappointed,” Canadian Olympian Beckie Scott said Thursday of RUSADA’s reinstatement. “I feel this was an opportunity for WADA and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I’m quite dismayed.”

On Saturday, Scott resigned from WADA’s compliance review committee and she isn’t backing down about how she felt about the decision.

“Politics has trumped principle,” Scott said Thursday. “This is very tough day for sport.”

Beckie Scott reacts to WADA decision:

Head of WADA’s athletes committee is ‘profoundly disappointed’ with decision 6:53

RUSADA was suspended in November 2015 after the scandal — which centred on helping Russian athletes win medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics — was revealed.

At the Canadian Sport Awards in Ottawa Thursday, many of the country’s top Olympians and Paralympians were confused, angry and disappointed in the decision and they weren’t afraid of letting their feelings be known. 

Denny Morrison is a four-time Olympian in long track speed skating. He said if the goal is to encourage a positive change in the culture of sport, “we can’t let the perpetrators continue without consequence.

“It’s a poor decision by WADA that sends a disastrous message to the sporting world: Cheat and you’ll get away with it.

“In Canada, we have to keep doing what’s right and be an example for other nations,” Morrison said. 

WADA vote reinstates Russian Anti-Doping Agency:

CBC News’ Jamie Strashin reports on the global reaction to WADA’s decision to reinstate RUSADA after a three-year ban. 2:46

Canadian lawyer and investigator Richard McLaren issued the damning report for WADA that concluded there was widespread, state-sanctioned doping among Russian athletes. Reached by Canadian Press Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, McLaren said his report still stands.

“Nobody has ever been able to say that this didn’t occur,” said McLaren, a Western University law professor. “Just because you deny, deny and deny, doesn’t mean that it didn’t occur. It just means that you’re not prepared to say that it did. You’re not prepared to admit it.”

Richard McLaren on WADA decision:

CBC News’ Heather Hiscox spoke with Richard McLaren, author of the McLaren Report into Russia’s widespread state-sponsored doping program, following WADA’s vote to reinstate Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency. 5:23

In a statement, Canadian Olympic Committee expressed its disappointment.

“We are disappointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s announcement today and request that WADA provide the detailed rationale behind the decision and how this supports playing by the rules,” COC president Tricia Smith said in a statement. “If this decision stands, it is imperative that WADA publish a clear Roadmap including a definition of the ‘strict conditions’ and ‘agreed process’ referenced in their announcement as well as definite timelines, means of enforcement, and a regular reporting mechanism.”

AthletesCAN, the association representing Canada’s national team athletes, said in a statement its biggest concern remains WADA’s willingness to shift its stance and compromise on criteria that had been previously established.

“This suggests arbitrary decision-making and subjective rule-making,” AthletesCAN said. “We would like to highlight that athletes are not afforded that same opportunity to compromise or negotiate when sanctioned under the WADA code, which presents an inherent double standard.”

WADA decided to reinstate Russia after backtracking on two key conditions: that Russia accept a report that concluded state involvement in the doping and coverups; and that Russia give access to evidence stored in its discredited Moscow laboratory.

CBC’s Jacqueline Doorey on lead-up to controversial vote:

CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey gives a timeline of the ongoings leading up to WADA’s vote to reinstate the Russian anti-doping agency. 2:49

AthletesCAN said in its statement it is concerned WADA is not acting independently of the International Olympic Committee and believes that any body tasked with upholding anti-doping and clean sport needs to be a truly independent organization. 

“Our position is not, and never has been, anti-Russian in nature, as we believe that all clean athletes should have the right to compete in a fair and equitable sporting arena. Our position is one about the effectiveness of WADA and their decision-making in regards to any country found to have systemic doping allegations,” the statement said. 

Canadian Olympian Perdita Felicien said she’s encouraged by the way Canadian athletes are rallying together and taking a strong stance against WADA’s decision. 

“It’s way too early to reinstate [RUSADA] considering what the crime was,” Felicien said. “It’s a bad day for clean sport.

“I think some people aren’t comfortable rocking the boat maybe because of their brand or protecting their own interest,  but if you’re truly a proponent of clean sport you have to speak the truth. We all have to speak up.”

The head of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport said he was “dismayed and disappointed” at the WADA decision.

“WADA is effectively thumbing their nose at the clean athletes,” CCES president and chief executive officer Paul Melia said from Ottawa.

‘A black day for athletes’:

Investigative journalist Declan Hill discusses the fallout from WADA’s decision to reinstate Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency. 4:56

“Obviously Russia and the IOC have convinced WADA to change their mind on the roadmap and those criteria, so it proves that WADA is not able to act independently,” Melia said. “It means that going forward the clean athletes, the anti-doping agencies, the governments of the world have to demand a reform to the governing structure of WADA because that executive committee is just a puppet of the IOC.

“That has to change going forward or we really don’t have an effective international regulator for the code.”

As for next steps, Russia has agreed to hand over samples and data by Dec. 31. If it doesn’t, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

“There’s a lot of credibility on the line here,” said Scott, who still leads the WADA athletes’ group. “So I think a lot of people are going to be waiting and watching very closely what happens from here.”

– with files from Canadian Press