Russia set to escape further punishment despite missing doping data deadline

Russia looks set to avoid further punishment over doping. Credit: PA

Instead of toasting a significant victory in the global fight against cheating, it's likely the World Anti-Doping Agency will be on the back foot again on Tuesday, fending off questions about why it hasn't thrown Russia back out into the cold.

It partly has itself to blame for coming second in the recent PR skirmish over Russia's doping crimes, behind the United States Anti-Doping Agency and a selection of mainly Western athletes who have found a collective, rebellious voice over the past few months.

ITV News understands their patience will be tested once more as Russia escapes further punishment, despite the fact it was two weeks beyond WADA's end of December deadline before it handed over sensitive doping data from its lab in Moscow.

"We've been looking for this information for two years, so 14 days is nothing", is how one WADA insider assessed Russia's delay.

To add further perspective to the significance of recent developments, they went on: "We have managed to get a rogue state that doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks to give up something they didn't want to give us."

Russia submitted its December doping data two weeks late. Credit: PA

Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA) was reinstated four months ago following a three-year ban, originally handed down for the Sochi Winter Olympics scandal in 2014.

The UK's anti-doping agency accused WADA of casting aside its responsibilities to clean athletes, while the head of its American counterpart described the decision to welcome Russia back as "bewildering and inexplicable".

But now finally in possession of data, which should prove which athletes were part of Russia's state-sponsored doping conspiracy, some WADA sources are privately hoping their critics look at the bigger picture.

"Getting the data is a real achievement. Could they have tampered with it? Yes, but if there is any discrepancy, we will be able to tell. So, what's not to like?"

It is the kind of robust, straight-talking, WADA's leaders could do with rehearsing in public.

RUSADA was reinstated four months ago following a three-year ban. Credit: PA

So why did Russia give in?

It's likely to be down to a change in the rules which has effectively gifted WADA more teeth.

If it decides Russia, or any other country is non-compliant, then that excludes it from hosting any major events. It also means its athletes would not be eligible for prestigious competitions, including the World Championships and Olympic Games.

Any ban would be tested at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but if it ultimately backed WADA's judgement, then everyone would be bound by the decision.

The reinstating of RUSADA has been met with criticism. Credit: PA

WADA's current confidence may of course prove misplaced as the data has yet to be authenticated.

But, if it has been altered or sections have been deleted, then Russia will inevitably face exclusion again.

If Russia has deliberately corrupted the data and WADA waivers, then maybe that's the moment to judge rather than right now, when thanks to a server full of Russian secrets, dozens, maybe even hundreds of cheating athletes, are about to be exposed.