Bengaluru, September 15: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has been given the green light to lift its ban on dope-tainted Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) after a recommendation from investigators.
A WADA statement said its independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had recommended that Russia's drug-tainted testing authority be reinstated when the agency's executive committee meets in the Seychelles on September 20.
The move, which paves the way for Russian athletes to make a full return to competition, came as a surprise.
WADA’s Executive Committee to discuss updated recommendation from independent Compliance Review Committee in relation to RUSADA Roadmap to Compliance: https://t.co/cZFDhIm4Em— WADA (@wada_ama) September 14, 2018
WADA suspended the RUSADA in 2015 after declaring it to be non-compliant following revelations of a vast, Moscow-backed scheme to avoid drug testers.
A WADA report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren accused Russian authorities of running an elaborate doping programme with the full support of the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Russian secret service or FSB.
Russian officials had previously concluded that their doping system failed, but refused to acknowledge claims of institutional involvement.
Tensions within WADA emerged earlier this year over whether Russia had done enough for the sanction to be lifted, with some officials arguing it had not completed a "roadmap" to rehabilitation.
However WADA's statement said its compliance committee had recommended reinstating RUSADA after reviewing a letter from the Russian Ministry of Sport.
"This letter sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia, therefore fulfilling the first of the two outstanding criteria of RUSADA's Roadmap to Compliance," WADA said.
It said Russia had also agreed to provide access to data and samples in its Moscow laboratory to WADA via an independent expert.
If RUSADA's reinstatement is approved as expected next week, it could have far-reaching implications across the sports world.
Most significantly, it removes a key obstacle to lifting the suspension of Russia by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field's global governing body.
The IAAF has taken a hardline stance on Russian athletes since the scandal emerged, refusing to lift its ban shortly before the European Championships.
The IAAF has said Russia must fulfill three criteria to be readmitted; the reinstatement of RUSADA, provide access to doping records at the agency's Moscow laboratory from 2011-2015, and payment of costs incurred by the IAAF in the wake of the scandal.
The IAAF will review Russia's status once more at its council meeting in Monaco in December.
(With inputs from Agencies).