On Friday, Senator Colbeck said fears that a complete sidelining of Russians could be thrown out by the Court of Arbitration for Sport contributed to WADA, which unanimously approved the penalty recommended by its Compliance and Review Committee, not coming down harder. He also believes athletes who can demonstrate they had not been tied up in doping did not deserve to be punished.
“In the broader scheme of things I think [the penalty] is pretty big,” Senator Colbeck told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “I think some people had sort of got attached to the idea of saying ‘OK, Russia is completely out’. But I think there should be some support for athletes that are clean.
“The other side of it is that, as part of the WADA code, there is a standard that’s written into it that dictates how penalties might work. There is not much doubt that Russia will appeal. If [the WADA penalty] is not done in accordance with the standard set up under the code, then you’re actually giving CAS a reason to look at the penalty or to overturn it.
“We expressed a view that the penalty might be tougher but that would mean going back through the process again. It wasn’t a matter of ExCo deciding on a different penalty. It would have to go back to the CRC and so that would be again more time. It wouldn’t guarantee what the new penalty was either. It was a matter of making a definitive statement now, bearing in mind there is still a process to go to put it into action. It still has to go through an appeal process and leaving enough time for that process to go through before July next year [when the Tokyo Olympics start] was also important.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated the country would appeal to the CAS, which it must do by December 30.
But Senator Colbeck said the evidence of manipulation of test-result data from its Moscow laboratory was blatant, showing the WADA decision to allow Russia back into the international fold in September last year was incorrect. While it was New Zealand who then sat at the ExCo table, Oceania’s opposition to removing sanctions on Russia then was done in consultation with Australia, Colbeck said. They lost the vote 9-2 as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency was made compliant after a nearly three-year ban on the proviso a database of test results was provided to WADA.
“It clearly didn’t work,” Senator Colbeck said. “It was proven to be wrong by the fact that the Russians didn’t give clean data and continued to manipulate the data through the process of collecting it. Even after submitting it they were still playing with it.”
With Russia’s appeal pending, the question has turned to how WADA will be able to be satisfied that an athlete can compete as a neutral in Tokyo, given the extent of deletions and alterations to the information provided by Moscow. According to WADA, the data manipulation has clouded cases against 145 athletes suspected of doping between 2011 and 2015, a third of whom are still competing.
“The athletes will have to prove that they’re clean,” Senator Colbeck said.
“The hurdle is and should be high. We want to see the world’s best athletes competing based on their own abilities and hard work, not through any other means. That’s what I want Australian athletes to have the benefit of. Given what we know about the system, that’s not going to be all that easy.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.