WADA fast tracks rules that could bar Russia from Olympics

MONTREAL, (Reuters) – Russia could be banned from participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics if proposed changes to the World Anti-Doping Agency Code announced on Thursday are fast-tracked.

WADA’s Foundation Board, expressing extreme urgency, will push forward with recommendations that would allow the body to apply sanctions against non-compliant international sporting federations, national Olympic committees and major event organisers.

Currently WADA can only recommend sanctions not apply them. Under the timetable put forward by Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Compliance Review Committee, the hope is the sanctioning framework will be ready for a vote at a WADA board meeting in November.

Even then, if approved, the timeline would be tight for the changes to apply to the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which begin on Feb. 8, with rules stipulating a three-month implementation phase.

Russia is currently deemed non-compliant by WADA for doping violations uncovered during investigations.

“You need to get something in place so everyone knows what the rules are,” Dick Pound, the former WADA chief and Foundation Board member told Reuters. “We would say you’re non-compliant and we advise the IOC and others accordingly.

“The IOC is then bound by the rules. There is a range of non-compliance. When your rules are not right, then get them in place. But if your conduct is non-compliant that is different and you go right to the nuclear option.”

Following the chaos that surrounded the sanctioning of Russian athletes before the Rio Olympics, the changes were at the top of WADA’s agenda.

The changes will allow the anti-doping body, in extreme cases, to ban countries and federations from participating in the Olympics and world championships.

After investigations uncovered evidence of wide-spread state sponsored doping in Russia, WADA recommended to the IOC that the country be banned from last year’s Rio Games.

The IOC, however, over-ruled WADA and handed the decision on Russian participation to individual sporting federations.

Under the proposed rule changes the IOC would be unable to throw Russia a life line like it did in Rio.

A country, federation or NOC found non-compliant will have the right to appeal to an independent hearing panel. If the panel overturns the decision, WADA can then appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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