Russia’s anti-doping agency increases testing

MOSCOW (AP) — Doping cases in Russia have almost doubled this year as athletes come under more scrutiny, the country’s national anti-doping agency said Tuesday.

Yuri Ganus, the director general of the agency, said it had detected 113 potential breaches of doping rules in the first eight months of 2018 — almost double the 59 it found in all of 2017. The rise comes as Russia tries to reform its anti-doping system after years of scandals across multiple sports.

“The number of breaches is alarming,” Ganus said.

It isn’t clear how many of the cases have resulted in athletes being banned, a process which can take months or even years. Athletes are typically cleared in about 10 percent of cases, Ganus said.

The rise may be partly because of extra testing. Ganus said the agency, known as RUSADA, collected 7,013 samples in the first eight months of 2018, about 800 more than all of last year.

If that pace continues until the end of 2018, RUSADA would roughly match the number of samples that major nations like the United States and China collected last year.

Russia was the leader by quantity of tests ahead of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, RUSADA and the national laboratory were both suspended in 2015 when the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of corruption.

WADA later ruled Russian anti-doping authorities routinely covered up positive samples from leading athletes. The number of tests in Russia plummeted as RUSADA was reformed with new staff.

Ganus said Russia’s testing was now much more reliable, in part because of a greater focus on using intelligence to target specific athletes for testing.

There’s also an investigative unit which tracked one group of Russian track and field athletes to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan, where they allegedly worked with a coach who is supposed to be serving a life ban for numerous doping cases.

WADA’s executive committee is due to vote Sept. 20 on whether to formally lift RUSADA’s suspension, although the agency is already carrying out most of its official duties.

“I don’t have any optimism (that the suspension will be lifted),” Ganus said.

He added that the main obstacle was that Russian law enforcement was refusing to release samples from the closed Moscow lab, claiming they are needed for an investigation.