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Athletes urge WADA to ensure Russians are drug-free in Rio

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Russian athletes should be banned from the Rio Olympics unless there are guarantees that they are drug free, the chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) athletes committee said on Thursday.

A woman walks into the head office for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Canadian Beckie Scott, the 2002 cross-country Olympic champion, made an emotional plea to the WADA foundation board to use its influence to keep Russian drug cheats out of the Aug. 5-21 Rio Summer Games and protect clean athletes.

“We acknowledge that WADA does not have jurisdiction over the Olympic Games,” said Scott, who originally won bronze at the 2002 Olympics but was upgraded to gold after two Russians who finished ahead of her were found guilty of doping.

“WADA does have, however, influence and clean athletes of the world propose that you use that influence with respect to Rio and Games beyond.

“Athletes strongly feel that if there cannot be a guarantee that athletes there from Russia are clean and not involved in doping activity that they should not be there.”

Russian has been in the doping spotlight since late 2014 when a German television documentary called “Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes Its Winners” aired and led to the suspension of Russia from international athletics competition.

This week more shocking revelations surfaced and prompted a new WADA investigation after whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov told investigative program “60 Minutes” that the former head of Russia’s drug testing laboratory told him at least four Russian gold medalists at the 2014 Sochi Olympics were using steroids.

Scott urged WADA, whose independent commission revealed widespread doping in Russia and corruption with involvement from Russian and international athletics officials, to aggressively pursue the latest reports and said athletes are frustrated at what they see as a lack of action.

“We are deeply disappointed in what we perceive to be a lack of decisive action and follow-up that came in the wake of a 300-page report detailing one of the most comprehensive and organized systems of doping and cheating in international sport that has ever been brought to light,” said Scott.

“The authors themselves describe a culture of cheating and state on several occasions the utter complete implausibility of this system being in place to service only track and field athletes.

“That the curtain had been pulled back to reveal such corruption and widespread prolific abuse of the rules and laws of sport and nothing was done was almost incomprehensible to the athlete community.

“The lack of action and follow-up combined with the growing sentiment among the athlete community that there are leaders in sport that just wanted this to go away.”

Editing by Frank Pingue