Athletics superpower Russia is running out of time to eradicate doping and may not be able to send a track and field team to this year's Rio Olympics, Dick Pound, chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) independent commission, said on 9 March.
Russian athletes were banned from international competition after a report by Pound's commission revealed widespread doping and graft involving Russian and international athletics officials. Russian athletics authorities were ordered to carry out sweeping reforms to allow a lifting of the ban.
Last week a German TV documentary contained fresh allegations of malpractice in Russia's anti-doping system. Among the claims made by the ARD programme were that Russian coaches, suspended in the worst corruption and doping scandal to hit the sport, were still working in athletics, while others continued to provide banned substances to athletes.
The ARD reports in recent months on doping in Russian sport were based on information provided by whistleblowers Vitaly Stepanov, who formerly worked for Russia's anti-doping agency, and his wife Yuliya, an 800 metres runner banned for doping.
"Certainly what we hoped was [when] faced with that report and the overwhelming evidence that now everybody knew what was going on that they [Russian Athletics] would take steps to clean up and stop the denial and stop collateral movement. It looks as if they've been simply changing some of the chess pieces on the board without actually doing anything new. A lot of the usual suspects are still in place," Pound said.
"When we issued our report in November we thought it would be a stretch but if they devoted themselves heart and soul as it were to be getting it done it would be possible. Well here we are four months later and they're still not here and I think somehow they must have convinced themselves that this would go away without them having to do anything serious. It's not going away. Neither Wada nor the IAAF are going to buy a band aid solution."
Russia, second to the US in the sport's pecking order, will be allowed to return to competition, including August's Rio Olympics, when it proves to Wada and the IAAF that it has met a series of conditions regarding its anti-doping operation. The doping and corruption scandal rates as one of the worst in athletics' history, and has put in question lucrative global sponsorship deals as well as results and medal awards in past international competitions.
"Athletics is certainly leaking a lot of oil at this point," he said. "Unfortunately it spreads unbidden to other sports and you get these extrapolations where 'Well it's not just track and field, it's everybody, everybody's taking drugs'. It's probably not true. What probably is true is that more [athletes] than you think are using drugs but we just don't have the evidence yet," said Pound.