By Adrian Warner
LONDON (Reuters) – World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chiefs said on Monday that they would call for “serious” action against Russia before the Rio Olympics in August if a new investigation next month shows evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping.
The Russian team has already been suspended from the athletics events in Rio because of doping allegations in track and field.
But WADA has set up another investigation under Canadian law professor Richard McLaren to probe allegations of state-backed doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
WADA President Craig Reedie said the McLaren investigation would make its findings public before July 15 at the latest.
If it shows evidence of widespread state-run cheating across many sports, the British official said it would be a moment for a “precedent-setting opportunity.”
Reedie would not confirm that WADA would definitely call for a total ban on the country but he told Reuters: “If it comes back like that, we have to say something serious.”
“In the coming weeks, we will learn the outcomes of our independent McClaren investigation. If his report indicates transgressions of any kind, then there will be a precedent-setting opportunity to demonstrate our collective commitment to cleaning up sport. The world will be watching.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due to discuss Russian’s athletics suspension, which has been imposed by the sport’s governing body (IAAF), at a special summit in Switzerland on Tuesday.
Olympic chiefs are also expected to look at reports that the country put in place a complex system to beat drug-testing at its own Winter Games in Sochi two years ago.
The IOC has indicated that it will support the athletics’ ban, the first time Russia, which finished second behind the United States in the track and field medals’ table at the 2012 London Games, will be absent since the 1984 Los Angeles Games when Eastern bloc countries boycotted.
WADA officials attending a special symposium at Lord’s cricket ground in central London on drugs in sport said there was a real need to restore trust in sport in Rio on behalf of the athletes.
“It is clear that, in order to curb state-wide doping, wherever it maybe in the world, countries must commit to a cultural change and that change can only come about by the decision-makers using their powers to full effect,” Reedie said.
His views on a tough line are clearly held across WADA. Asked if a call for an overall ban on Russia for Rio was inevitable if the McLaren report is damning, incoming WADA Director General Olivier Niggli told Reuters: “We will have to be very firm if there is evidence.”
WADA confirmed that it was already working with swimming’s world governing body FINA on an investigation into doping allegations made against Russia and China.
The organization has recently appointed its first in-house investigator to follow up allegations of cheating.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)