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By Steve Keating
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Russia’s sporting reputation was in tatters and drug cheats around the world put on notice on Wednesday as an emboldened World Anti-Doping Agency vowed to step up the war on performance-enhancing drugs.
WADA capped a big fortnight for their cause, and a miserable one for Russia, by suspending the country’s anti-doping agency on the back of an independent commission report that uncovered evidence of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.
The suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) completed a non-compliance hat-trick.
The Moscow laboratory implicated in the cover-up has been decertified, while the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) was banned last week by the world governing body (IAAF).
The commission, led by former-WADA chief Dick Pound, generated plenty of buzz at Wednesday’s board meeting as the world-doping authority signalled a possible change in the way it does business going forward.
“I’m not sure they (WADA) realised they had the muscle until we got our teeth into some reliable evidence and followed up on it and came out with a report with recommendations,” said Pound.
“Maybe that’s the new WADA. Maybe we could have gotten there sooner if we had known how to deal with the kind of information that was coming from whistle blowers.
“Once we got some hard evidence, some audio, visual recordings, there you are now we’ve got something and we know where to go and how to pursue it. Maybe that’s WADA II.”
While Russia and their athletics programme have been in the WADA crosshairs, Pound has repeatedly made it clear that it is not the only country, and athletics not the only sport, with doping issues.
The foundation board heard from several members urging the global agency to do more and expand its investigations.
Beckie Scott, a Canadian cross-country Olympic champion and chair of the WADA athlete committee, told the board that many athletes have asked her why the commission was focused solely on Russia and Russian athletics.
By the time the day-long meeting had concluded, the board had endorsed moves for WADA to look at ways to strengthen its ability to conduct international investigations.
President Sir Craig Reedie announced he would go to governments seeking additional money to fund probes and then ask the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which set up WADA, to match those donations.
“There is little doubt investigation is certainly one of the ways forward,” Reedie told Reuters.
“We’re always asked to do more with limited funds and now this is a big step forward.
“That’s why I specifically said go to the government first they are keen on it, it would appear, now please put your hands in your pockets and let’s have some additional resources.
“If you are going to do proper investigations you need to employ the correct people and it’s expensive.”
Pound put a price tag of at least $1 million on investigations similar to the one just completed and finding the money to aggressively pursue drug cheats will be hard.
WADA has an operating budget of $31 million and will eat up $500,000 of its reserve fund this year to stay alive.
“Lots and lots of people said today ‘You need to do more investigations’,” said Reedie. “Nobody has turned around and said ‘By the way, this is how we are going to pay for it’.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney