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1ST LEAD WADA dismisses IOC criticism on their handling of Russia doping By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday dismissed criticism from Olympics head Thomas Bach on their handling of doping practices in Russia ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

WADA said in a statement it was not possible to release the report of their investigator Richard McLaren earlier than July 18 because the key witness, former Moscow doping lab chief Grigory Rodchenkov, had not shared his information last year with another WADA commission.

Rodchenkov came forward via The New York Times and CBS 60 Minutes in May, which prompted McLaren‘s probe.

WADA acknowledged that the timing of the report was "destabilising" for organizations ahead of Rio but also said McLaren‘s task was not to investigate individual athletes but rather the allegations of widespread and state-sponsored doping in Russian sport.

"WADA wishes to factually clarify that the Agency acted immediately on allegations concerning Russia when it had corroborated evidence and the power to do so under the World Anti-Doping Code," WADA said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) headed by Bach decided on July 24 not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes but let the athletes‘ respective sports federations decide on their eligibility for Rio, followed by final checks by the Court of Arbitration for Sports and a three-strong IOC panel.

More than 250 Russian athletes are expected to compete at the Rio Games which open on Friday and run until August 21.

While defending the decision to allow Russian athletes to compete in Rio, Bach had openly criticised WADA at a news conference Sunday, saying: "The IOC cannot be made responsible for the timing of the incidents we have to face now, a couple of days before the Games."

But WADA president Craig Reedie, who is also an IOC vice-president, said in Monday‘s statement that McLaren did his best to conduct a quick investigation - which will continue beyond the Rio Games.

"WADA‘s Executive Committee - composed in equal parts by representatives of the Olympic Movement and Governments of the world - supported Professor McLaren‘s independent mandate, which was to obtain evidence as quickly as possible in the interest of clean athletes," Reedie.

"While it is destabilizing in the lead up to the Games, it is obvious, given the seriousness of the revelations that he uncovered, that they had to be published and acted upon without delay."

WADA‘s first commission, under its former president Richard Pound, looked into allegations of doping and the cover-ups of positive tests, mainly in Russian athletics, first made by German state network ARD in December 2014.

Pound‘s reports led to the suspension of the Russian athletics federation by the IAAF and an all but complete ban of the Russian athletics team from Rio.

Reedie said that "Rodchenkov was heard several times by the Pound Commission in 2015; and he never provided the information that he later revealed" to the American media.

"This information was subsequently corroborated by the McLaren Investigation, which also unveiled a wider implication of the Moscow (anti-doping) laboratory."

The Russian doping case has meanwhile seemingly prompted WADA to cancel a planned news conference in Rio.

Calls from dpa were not returned immediately but WADA spokesman Ben Nichols was quoted as telling the Press Association: "Given current events, we believed that our press conference - which was to focus on WADA‘s Independent Observer and Athlete Outreach programs - would be overshadowed by other matters."

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