THE BIG PICTURE: McLaren estimate right on target as 298 possible new Russian doping cases confirmed by WADA

In the aftermath of January’s disclosure that the Russians had finally provided the raw data from the infamous Moscow laboratory that was the center of the state-run doping scandal from 2011-15, Canadian law professor Richard McLaren – whose work had uncovered the depth of the cheating – was asked how many more dopers might be found.

“My thinking would be in the 300-600 possible range,” he told Agence France Presse.

He had it right on the nose. The World Anti-Doping Agency posted a notice on Tuesday, stating that the analysis of the Moscow Lab data indicated 298 possible positives, with more to come.

The WADA release noted that “The raw data are the result of sample analysis and indicate whether a substance or metabolite was detected,” a first indication of a possible doping positive.

The statement gave the following specifics:

“WADA confirms that the relevant IFs’ results management process has begun. To date, of those 298 athletes identified by WADA I&I, the data of 43 athletes (150 samples) have been reviewed and evidentiary packages compiled. These packages have now been sent to the relevant IFs, which have commenced assessment of the evidence with a view to identifying those cases to take forward as Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs). Assessment will include review of the raw data by laboratory experts, which will take some time. In the near future, WADA aims to provide more packages to the relevant IFs. It is estimated that by the end of 2019, all priority cases will have been investigated by WADA.”

The next question, of course, is what happens if an International Federation chooses to do nothing:

“In cases where an IF chooses not to act, WADA will review and discuss the facts with the IF. WADA reserves the right to bring cases forward to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), as appropriate, and will also monitor the decisions rendered by the respective IFs and CAS to adjust its strategy.”

The statement also noted that the raw data concerning track & field athletes has been provided to the independent Athletics Integrity Unit for its own analysis, which the AIU noted will take some time.

The WADA statement continuously defended its still-controversial decision of last September, in which it provisionally reinstated the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, signaling that the hard feelings within the WADA community have still not healed (a bad sign for the future).

But the closure of the Russian doping cases has begun, and could be closed by the time the 2020 Games begin in Tokyo, ending a six-year ordeal that has shaken worldwide confidence in the integrity of Olympic sport.