Russian dismissal of anti-doping chief threatens fresh international rift

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia dismissed the head of RUSADA, its national anti-doping agency, on Friday in a move that threatens to further strain the country’s relations on the global sporting stage.

FILE PHOTO: Head of Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Yuri Ganus speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Publicly critical of some sports officials for their inaction in tackling Russia’s doping crisis, Yuri Ganus had been appointed to head RUSADA as it mounted a push to be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The appointment of a new director had been a condition for the reinstatement.

Yet his dismissal as director general of RUSADA came after Russia’s Olympic Committee - one of the agency’s founders along with the Paralympic Committee - accused him of presiding over serious financial violations. Ganus denied the allegations.

Ganus portrayed the accusations against him as an attempt to undermine RUSADA’s efforts to rebuild international trust in Russia’s anti-doping system.

WADA and other global sports bodies expressed concern earlier this month when RUSADA’s supervisory board recommended Ganus be fired, stressing that the independence of anti-doping agencies was paramount.

Speaking at a press conference, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, said the decision to dismiss Ganus had been unanimous. “We are certain that RUSADA’s operations will remain independent,” he said.

Pozdnyakov added that Mikhail Bukhanov, a lawyer at the agency, would serve as RUSADA’s acting head until a new director is appointed within the next six months.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, who had been Ganus’s deputy, resigned earlier this week.

WADA said it was concerned by Ganus’s dismissal and was in contact with RUSADA and the Russian authorities to seek clarification.


“It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that national anti-doping organizations, such as RUSADA, remain safe from interference in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work independently and effectively,” WADA said in a statement.

The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) said there was “a clear conflict of interest when sport organisations have the power to remove the head of a national anti-doping agency unopposed”.

High jumper Maria Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, deplored the firing, saying Ganus had tried to resolve the crisis in Russian athletics.

“Once again it has become clear that Russian sport doesn’t need professionals but convenient people,” she wrote in a post on her Instagram Stories.

Russia has been rocked by doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping among Russian track and field athletes.

Suspended in the wake of the report, RUSADA was conditionally reinstated in September 2018. The agency, however, was declared non-compliant late last year after WADA found Moscow had provided it with doctored laboratory data.

RUSADA has appealed against a four-year ban on Russian athletes competing at major international sporting events under their flag as punishment for that data alteration.

The case will be heard by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in November.

Additional reporting by Gennady Novik; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Holmes