It was great to see the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Anti-Doping Agency take a hard line the other day on the inclusion of Russian athletes at the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
Heck no, USADA chief Travis Tygart said in so many words.
"Our position is the position we've heard from clean athletes from around the world," Tygart told The Denver Post's John Meyer. "It's just simply not possible for Russian track and field athletes to be in a testing program that puts them on a level playing field with clean athletes."
That's absolutely the right call. The fact that a ban on the Russians is still not locked down is mind-boggling after November's report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) exposed a state-sanctioned doping scandal.
The report revealed athletes used impersonators to take drug tests, that secret police intimidated testing-lab workers and that 1,400 samples were destroyed before they were supposed to be turned over to international authorities for testing.
In order to show the country is willing to reform what is clearly a corrupt system, the head of Russia's anti-doping agency stepped down, as did the head of Russia's largest testing lab.
Shortly after the report was published, the International Association of Athletics Federation did ban the All-Russia Athletic Federation from international competition, including the Olympics. But whether the ban will hold through August remains to be seen. It could be lifted if the Russians were able to demonstrate, among other things, that they've complied with strict criteria on testing.
Yet there's the rub. How could an athletic program entrenched in doping for so many years, especially one with state support, possibly complete such a swift turnaround?
For the time being, the Russian testing program has been suspended while WADA works with Russian officials to install a new and effective system. And the latest word from WADA, in a Jan. 20 update, is that discussions with the Russians "are still ongoing."
In other words, anti-doping authorities have yet to agree with Russia on measures to bring it into compliance — with the Olympics only six months away.
However, that hasn't stopped the Russian deputy minister of sports from saying this month that he hoped to see about 450 athletes from his country compete in Rio de Janeiro.
That's absurd. Clean athletes expect to compete against other clean athletes. The Russians should be banned.
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