Russia’s reinstatement after doping scandal goes to a vote

In this 2016 file photo, employees work in Russia's national drug-testing laboratory in Moscow. Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower who exposed Russia's doping corruption at the Sochi Olympics added to a chorus of protest over the possible reinstatement of the country's anti-doping agency. (AP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Russia’s reinstatement after doping scandal goes to a vote

AP: Should Russia be reinstated without publicly admitting wrongdoing for its state-sponsored doping scheme?
That question has caused ferocious infighting at the World Anti-Doping Agency, the watchdog body tasked with stopping any repeat of the widespread drug use and cover-ups which tarnished a sporting superpower.
WADA’s board is due to vote on the issue Thursday in the Seychelles. If it votes yes, it might push world track and field body the IAAF to welcome back Russia too.
Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA, was suspended in November 2015 when a WADA report found top athletes could take banned drugs with near-impunity since RUSADA and the national laboratory would cover for them. Later investigations found evidence that dirty samples were switched for clean ones when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The reinstatement of RUSADA is championed by WADA’s president Craig Reedie, who has softened two key conditions for Russia, and the move has the tacit backing of the International Olympic Committee.
But despite a recommendation for reinstatement from a key WADA committee, it has provoked anger from other anti-doping figures who feel Russia can’t be trusted to reform without accepting more of the blame.
Athletes on one of WADA’s own commissions, Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov and the WADA vice president Linda Helleland, lead the opposition.
“I am afraid that by opting for the easiest way out, it will ultimately hurt WADA in the future,” said Helleland, a Norwegian politician who is eyeing a bid to replace Reedie as the organization’s president.
Reedie softened his stance on Russia “in the spirit of compromise,” as he wrote to Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov in June.
That means dropping a demand for Russia to accept a report which accused the state of directing doping, and instead allowing it to accept an IOC document with milder conclusions. Reedie deemed it satisfactory after Kolobkov wrote that he “fully accepted” the IOC report, and Russia won’t be expected to make any public statement or address exactly who in the vast state sports structure was to blame.
Critical of the move toward reinstating RUSADA, whistleblower Rodchenkov said Russia’s priority is “protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”
WADA’s Reedie also accepted Russia can be reinstated without providing some key evidence from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the allegations. Instead, Russia promises to deliver it only after it’s reinstated.
Russian law enforcement — and President Vladimir Putin — haven’t changed their argument that the main guilty party was WADA’s star whistleblower Rodchenkov. Russian law enforcement alleges that he tricked clean Russian athletes into taking drugs for unclear reasons, then faked evidence of abuses at the Sochi Olympics.
Rodchenkov is in hiding in the United States, while other whistleblowers like the runners Yulia Stepanova and Andrei Dmitriev, have been vilified at home after reporting abuses by teammates. They say they have been forced to leave Russia for their own safety.
Putin ordered his own investigation in 2016 and some sports ministry officials, including then-deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh, were suspended. However, that investigation never reported any public conclusions and the officials quietly resigned later that year. Vitaly Mutko, who was sports minister during the Sochi Olympics, was swiftly promoted to deputy prime minister.
It’s largely a symbolic battle for RUSADA but could set a precedent in track and field, where Russia has been suspended since 2015. RUSADA’s reinstatement is one of the conditions the IAAF set before it will allow Russia’s team back to full strength, rather than its current neutral status.
That status means Russian track and field athletes cannot compete in international competitions under the Russian flag and have to be cleared as independent athletes.
If Russia is listed as compliant, WADA is also likely to drop its recommendation that the country shouldn’t be awarded hosting rights for new competitions. Some major sports have already flouted that measure without any apparent consequences.
The small world of anti-doping officials may be in uproar, but at RUSADA itself all is calm.
A WADA decision last year quietly restored almost all of the agency’s powers without a formal reinstatement since the number of test samples taken in Russia had plummeted. Speaking earlier this month, RUSADA’s CEO Yuri Ganus said just about the only effects of Russia’s “non-compliant” status were extra monitoring of the agency’s work and problems asking for assistance from foreign agencies.
RUSADA is on track to be among the most active agencies in the world this year after collecting 7,013 in the first eight months of 2018. That’s almost as many as RUSADA did in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, when it’s accused of routinely “saving” dopers.
WADA says this time the Russian doping test results can be trusted.


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.