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WADA: World not convinced Russia's doping culture has ended

Associated Press Associated Press 20/11/2016 By ROB HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, Vitaly Smirnov, a former IOC member from Russia who runs a government-backed doping commission, speaks to the Associated Press in Yakhroma, Russia. Brought out of retirement by President Vladimir Putin, the 81-year-old Vitaly Smirnov is Russia's chief doping troubleshooter. The former Soviet minister has been enlisted to draw up Russia's future strategy on doping and to use his contacts from five decades in Olympic politics to lobby for Russian interests and play down the seriousness of the accusations of state-sponsored cheating. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) © The Associated Press In this photo taken on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, Vitaly Smirnov, a former IOC member from Russia who runs a government-backed doping commission, speaks to the Associated Press in Yakhroma, Russia. Brought out of retirement by President Vladimir Putin, the 81-year-old Vitaly Smirnov is Russia's chief doping troubleshooter. The former Soviet minister has been enlisted to draw up Russia's future strategy on doping and to use his contacts from five decades in Olympic politics to lobby for Russian interests and play down the seriousness of the accusations of state-sponsored cheating. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

GLASGOW, Scotland — Russian sport is a long way from convincing the world that it has cleaned up its act, the World Anti-Doping Agency declared Sunday, pointing to the state's failure to accept it was behind a doping program, its continued obstruction of testing, and a series of cyberattacks.

"It would be better if they were maybe a little bit more contrite," WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press after being re-elected unopposed for a second term.

Russia is seeking readmission to WADA a year after being declared non-compliant with the doping code, following the publication of a report detailing widespread cheating in track and field.

Fresh evidence of state-backed doping cover-ups was revealed by investigators ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Games, although WADA's recommendation of a blanket ban on Russia's Olympic team was rejected by the IOC.

Russia's integrity is set to be challenged again when Canadian law professor Richard McLaren's final doping report is published on Dec. 9, with the focus on winter sports.

Reedie said Russia still has to get "the rest of the world to believe that they have reformed and this (doping) won't happen again. So there is much work to be done."

At Sunday's Foundation Board meeting, WADA officials outlined how Russia continues to frustrate anti-doping officials by denying access to so-called closed cities where athletes are training and also to a sealed-off laboratory in Moscow that contains samples sought by sporting federations.

The public criticism was delivered in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin's anti-doping troubleshooter, Vitaly Smirnov, the former Soviet sports minister now heading Russia's state-backed anti-doping commission.

"Russia has never had a state-sponsored system of doping," Smirnov responded defiantly.

Vitaly Mutko, who was recently promoted from sports minister to deputy prime minister, was banned from attending the Rio Olympics after being accused by McLaren of ordering the cover-up of a failed drug test by a foreign soccer player.

A WADA presentation on Sunday flagged up claims by Mutko that McLaren's report was "falsified" and threats to prosecute those assisting the investigators.

One of Mutko's deputies at the sports ministry, Yuri Nagornykh, was ousted on Putin's orders after McLaren said he helped to orchestrate cover-ups of hundreds of drug tests. But Smirnov said Nagornykh was not a member of the government because "he was deputy minister," maintaining that "only ministers are members of the government."

Russia's unflinching denial of state involvement was rebutted by WADA, with Reedie endorsing "clear evidence of collusion between the laboratory and the ministry" from McLaren's investigation.

Reedie does, however, believe there is a "willingness to resolve the problems." And he will not insist on a full acceptance of guilt at government level as an "absolute condition" of Russia's anti-doping body being cleared by WADA.

"It would be a great shame if they couldn't be compliant because they couldn't find a way of dealing with closed cities," Reedie said, referring to the areas where the Russian military restricts access. "Maybe athletes shouldn't go there."

Also straining relations are the cyberattacks on WADA's databases, which the agency attributes to Russia espionage groups - as they appeared designed to raise doubts about the integrity of sports stars from Western nations.

Records of "Therapeutic Use Exemptions," which allow athletes to use otherwise-banned drugs because of a verified medical need, were leaked by a hacking group known as Fancy Bears.

"This doesn't make international acceptance of Russian improvement any easier if this goes on," Reedie said of the hacking.

While disclosing that hackers are still trying to obtain logins and passwords, WADA said it would continue to oppose the publication of athletes' medical information. The agency said 143 TUEs were granted before or during the Rio Games, with a "handful" of the 11,303 competing athletes requiring more than one.

"The system works perfectly," Reedie said, as the TUEs are "allocated and agreed by responsible people in sport."

WADA will remain under the leadership of the 75-year-old Reedie for the next three years, despite elements of the Olympic world appearing uneasy with the agency's attacks on Russia. Association of National Olympic Committees President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah had wanted a "neutral chair" to take over from Reedie, who was supported by the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC congratulated Reedie on Sunday and said it "welcomed his commitment ... to work towards the appointment of a neutral WADA President."

Reedie responded: "I have always been (neutral). I will continue to be, and behave, as independently as I can."

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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