THE BIG PICTURE: WADA team “successfully” retrieves Moscow Lab data

The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Thursday that its data-retrieval team had completed its mission to obtain the testing database of the Moscow Laboratory at the center of the four-year doping scheme operated within the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).

From the statement:

“A three-person World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expert team has successfully retrieved the data from the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and the underlying analytical data generated by the former Moscow Laboratory in Russia.

“The data are crucial to build strong cases against cheats and exonerate other athletes suspected of having participated in widespread doping on the basis of previous WADA-commissioned investigations led by Richard W. Pound and Professor Richard H. McLaren. The data has been retrieved from the laboratory’s various servers, instruments, computers and other electronic equipment. This information has now been transported out of Russia for authentication and detailed analysis by the Agency.”

The last sentence is a crucial part of the project, as a copy of what appeared to be the LIMS database was leaked to WADA months ago. WADA head Craig Reedie (GBR) noted:

“WADA now embarks on the second phase, which entails the authentication and review of the data to ensure it is complete and that it has not been compromised. Given the amount of data, that will take some time to achieve but our experts have the tools they need to be able to verify the data with a high degree of confidence.

“Once the data have been authenticated, we will be in a position to proceed to the third phase and support the various sports and other anti-doping organizations concerned to build strong cases against athletes who doped and, as part of that, ensure that certain samples that are still stored in the Moscow Laboratory are re-analyzed in an accredited laboratory no later than 30 June 2019.”

However, there are multiple loose ends that are still to be tied up. The first is the question of whether to re-suspend RUSADA because it did not meet the deadline of 31 December 2018 for access to the LIMS database. That was discussed at WADA’s Compliance Review Committee meeting in Montreal (CAN) on Monday and Tuesday of this week, and while a recommendation was made, it was withheld until the WADA data-retrieval team had left Moscow.

The WADA Executive Committee will meet on 22 January to further consider the matter and could confirm compliance – albeit late – with its requirements for cooperation, or suspended RUSADA again for failure to comply in time.

A third option will be to delay any decision until the veracity of the data retrieved in Moscow can be determined. How can a reasoned decision be made by the Executive Committee if it does not know if the data retrieved in Moscow is valid?

Those against the Russian reinstatement are calling for RUSADA’s suspension given the missed deadline. Those who favor the proverbial “spoonful of sugar” for Russia to try and keep them on track to complete their responsibilities under the WADA directives will call for leniency and some modest slap on the wrist.

It might be best to wait until the data is verified and then consider the next step. In the meantime, everyone could take in Julie Andrews’ classic role in Disney’s 1964 version of Mary Poppins and enjoy the entire “A Spoonful of Sugar” performance.