By Karolos Grohmann
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency was on the receiving end of scorching criticism on Tuesday from the IOC who urged WADA to restore its reputation as the war of words over the timing of its response to the Russian doping scandal escalated.
WADA chief Craig Reedie was grilled at the International Olympic Committee session for what members said was a failure to act on information from whistleblowers of widespread doping in Russia until it became public through the media last year.
As a result, a WADA-commissioned report on the extent of the abuse was published in July, leaving the IOC to make a decision on whether Russian athletes could participate in the Rio Games just weeks before they were due to open.
The scandal has led to dozens of Russian athletes being banned from the Olympics, which begin on Friday, including essentially the entire track-and-field team.
But the IOC has come under fire for not imposing a blanket ban on Russian athletes, despite the report revealing systematic state-backed doping in the country.
Reedie, who is also an IOC Vice President, defended his organisation’s actions, saying WADA acted once concrete facts were made available but added that things needed to improve.
“I like to believe all of the system is not broken,” Reedie said. “Part of the system is broken. We should start trying to identify those parts that need attention.”
“Findings (of the report) and (the) impact created challenging timelines. It is almost impossible to think of the difficulty we have faced in dealing with the very, very serious issues.”
Reedie told reporters he had “not been thrown under the bus” by the IOC.
“It is not often that sport is confronted with what has come out of Russia in last 18 months. It is really difficult to handle. It puts pressure on everyone,” he said.
Earlier he faced the anger of several IOC members, with Alex Gilady, of Israel telling the session: “Already in 2010 the whistleblower came to WADA. They said they didn’t know what to do with this.
“One has to scratch his head if WADA says they did not know what to do with whistleblowers who came to them with clear information and just left it.”
Gilady was referring to middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, who provided information to German broadcaster ARD which produced several documentaries revealing the scandal.
“It is not the reputation of the IOC that needs to be restored but the reputation of WADA,” Gilady said.
In another veiled criticism of WADA, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Given our remit, it is not the IOC that is responsible for the accreditation and supervision of anti-doping laboratories.
“It is not the IOC which can be held responsible for alleged corruption between the leadership of an international federation and a national member federation to cover up doping.
Calls for an all-out ban on Russian competitors were overruled by the IOC, which instead set a number of criteria, including a spotless doping record and sufficient international doping test, for Russians to be cleared to compete in Rio.
Argentine member Gerardo Werthein put the blame squarely on WADA.
“I believe that this delay by WADA and the failure to investigate serious and credible allegations more swiftly has left the sports movement… in a very difficult position.”
“At times WADA has seemed to be more interested in publicity and self-promotion rather than doing its job as a regulator.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann,; Editing by Neville Dalton and Ken Ferris)