Canadian athletes are still reeling from the news that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has lifted the ban on Russia only three years after the doping scandal.
“This is a sad day for clean sport, bringing the very notion into disrepute,” Evan Dunfee, Canadian race walker and Olympian, told Global News. “WADA has shown that they will easily bow to the will of political pressure rather than standing up for the athletes they are supposed to protect.”
The decision came via a vote by the agency’s executive committee on Thursday, after many athletes and organizations, including Dunfee, urged WADA to reconsider.
“Clean athletes around the globe are rising up and speaking out — it is imperative their voices be counted. The future of sport depends on it,” Canadian anti-doping activist Beckie Scott wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Scott, who was born in Vermillion, Alta., won a bronze medal in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Her bronze medal was turned into a gold medal two years later, when the gold and silver medallists — both from Russia — were stripped of their medals for doping violations.
She resigned her position on WADA’s compliance review committee after it recommended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) reinstatement last week.
She told CBC she was “profoundly disappointed” in the decision.
“I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I’m quite dismayed,” she said.
She also linked to a letter from members of the WADA Athletes Committee that said Russia has not complied with a roadmap set out by WADA.
“It is for RUSADA to be compliant, not for WADA to change its condition to make RUSADA compliant,” the letter reads.
“As athletes, we have to follow the rules every single day, and we expect the same from all anti-doping organizations.”
Dunfee also said it will be harder for Canada to win medals if doping is allowed to continue.
“Our sporting success as a nation can’t be defined by medals won anymore as it’s not a level playing field,” he said.
Instead, he hopes athletes can define their success based on the impact they have on Canadians.
“I know first hand that medals don’t make role models and that needs to ring true now, more than ever, as the medals become harder to come by as the chasm between clean sport and ‘win at all costs’ continues to grow,” he said.
In the week leading up to the announcement, many other athletes and athletic groups called for WADA to keep up the ban.
WADA’s vice president, Linda Helleland, blasted the committee for the decision, saying the agency “failed the clean athletes of the world.”
“I am very disappointed on behalf of the clean athletes and everyone who believes in clean sport,” she wrote in a statement.
She said just two of the 12 members of the committee voted against reinstating Russia.
“With this decision, we defy the very wish of the Athletes’ Committees … who have very clearly stated that they will not accept a reinstatement now.”
“Today, we made the wrong decision in protecting the integrity of sport and to maintain public trust in the anti-doping work.”
The lawyer for Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who blew the whistle on the Russian anti-doping agency, called the decision “the greatest treachery.”
“Wada’s decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history,” Walden said in a statement to the Guardian. “The United States is wasting its money by continuing to fund WADA, which is obviously impotent to address Russia’s state-sponsored doping.”