LONDON: Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) that it would be “very hard” to trust any Russian athlete at this year’s Olympics Games in Rio should the country succeed in overturning its ban from international competition.
It was a report produced by an independent commission chaired by Pound, following undercover reporting by German broadcaster ARD, that led to Russia being suspended from all international competition in November after what the Canadian said was a programme of “state-sponsored doping”.
Following the Pound commission report, a WADA “task force” has been sent into Russia with the aim of rebuilding the country’s anti-doping system with the aim of getting the nation back into the Olympics.
Whether Russia gets the go-ahead is set to be determined by a meeting of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council in Vienna on June 17.
But Pound questioned whether Russia truly had the will to make the required changes.
Speaking at the Sport Resolutions conference in London, the 74-year-old Canadian said: “When we delivered our report back in November, we said they could get back in if they went full speed ahead to do the job properly but it’s up to them.
“There will be a lot pressure to get them back in and, from a system point of view, it would be nice to have everybody at the Games.
“But whether that makes sense in terms of the changes they’ve made remains to be seen.
“I think there’s still some elements of denial (in Russia).”
Pound added that there would be immense suspicion surrounding any Russian athletes competing at Rio.
“If I were IOC (International Olympic Committee) president and we let the Russians back in, are we absolutely certain that every Russian athlete isn’t doping and everything has changed?
“I think it’s very hard to say that.”
Pound’s comments were backed up by retired British distance running star Paula Radcliffe, a vocal campaigner for ‘clean’ athletics.
“We’re all suspicious that they can do what they need to do to assure us the entire team is clean to compete fairly in Rio,” said Radcliffe, who has long voiced concerns that athletes cleared to return could still be gaining from having used performance-enhancing drugs in the relatively recent past.