By Christian Radnedge
PARIS (Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency is not fit for purpose and should be replaced, Britain’s double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson has said following its decision last month to lift a ban on Russia’s anti-doping body.
RUSADA’s 22-month suspension was removed by WADA subject to various conditions but drew widespread criticism from some athletes and anti-doping agencies.
The decision opens the door for Russia’s eventual return to international sport, following February’s reinstatement of the Russian Olympic Committee after the country was banned from this year’s Winter Games in South Korea.
Thompson, the former world and European champion who won gold at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, told Reuters WADA should be replaced because athletes’ were not being listened to.
“I just think WADA should be kicked into touch and we should have some people that are representing the athlete and the spirit of sport,” he said at the Laureus Sport for Good Summit.
“A new body should be set up because the one there isn’t fit for purpose.”
Athletics was at the forefront of the doping scandal that erupted in 2015 with Richard McLaren’s independent report alleging a state-sponsored doping programme existed in Russia.
Critics say Russia has failed to meet steps laid out in a roadmap for RUSADA’s reinstatement, which included the country acknowledging the findings of the WADA-commissioned McLaren report and allowing access to urine samples at its Moscow lab.
However, a WADA spokesperson defended its stance on RUSADA, saying in an email to Reuters: “WADA’s Executive Committee… believes that the decision to reinstate RUSADA as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code is the right one for clean sport and puts WADA in a much stronger position than we were before.
“What the decision means is that either we will have access to all the data from the Moscow laboratory by the end of the year, allowing us to catch more cheats and exonerate clean athletes, or RUSADA will be made non-compliant again.”
Athletics’ governing body has been one of the few to maintain a hard line, with the IAAF imposing its own conditions which the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) still has to meet before its athletes can compete internationally again.
“A lot of the other sports I think have done a disservice to their athletes,” said 60-year-old Thompson.
“Russia hasn’t complied to some of the instructions that they were given in order to get back into international sport and I think that they’ve all capitulated… for whatever reason.
“I think that athletics has been the one true defender and I’m proud to be part of that family.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations set up the Athletics Integrity Unit in April 2017 as an independent body tasked with combating doping in sport.
However, Thompson questioned the IAAF decision to stage the Sept. 27-Oct 6 world championships in Doha next year — the first time the event will have been held in the Gulf region.
“It’s going to be tough… I don’t know how they’re going to fill stadiums. Even football doesn’t fill stadiums there. It was a tough call and hopefully they’ve got it right but looking at it today it’s going to be a tough sell.”
The Briton favours regularly bringing the worlds back to his home city, London, which staged last year’s event.
UK Sport recently announced they were looking at bidding to hold the global event again within the next 10 years after breaking attendance records in 2017 at the London Stadium, which was also the packed centrepiece of the 2012 Olympics.
“And why wouldn’t they? I don’t know why the IAAF doesn’t take their world championships — every third one or every fourth one — back to Britain because we filled the place,” Thompson said.
“We might be the only place in the whole world that fills it morning, afternoon, evening sessions — we love it.”
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Ken Ferris)