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WADA panel recommends reinstatement of Russian agency

In this May 24, 2016 file photo an employee of the Russia's national drug-testing laboratory holds a vial in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(AP) -- A key review committee changed directions suddenly this week, and is recommending Russia's anti-doping agency be reinstated after a nearly three-year suspension resulting from the country's scheme to circumvent rules and win Olympic medals.

The World Anti-Doping Agency released a statement Friday saying its compliance review committee was satisfied with Russian promises to fulfill two key criteria for RUSADA's reinstatement: That authorities provide access to data that could help corroborate positive tests uncovered during the investigation into the doping scandal, and that Russian sports entities publically accept that there was a widespread, government-directed effort to manipulate drug tests in order to win medals.

The compliance committee's recommendation came a day after the BBC published a WADA document that was to be distributed at next week's executive-committee meeting, saying neither of the criteria had been satisfied and that it would not recommend reinstatement.

That document is marked as an agenda item for next Friday's meeting of the WADA executive committee, at which RUSADA's future will be discussed.

Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov told the Russian state news agency Tass that he was sure "sooner or later, the WADA compliance committee would recognize the huge amount of work which has been done in Russia to fight doping."

"We have always strived for cooperation and have done everything required of us, bearing in mind our legal norms. We are open to the maximum because we have nothing to hide," Kolobkov said.

In changing its stance Friday, the compliance committee urged the executive committee to set a clear timeline for Russia to deliver the data and urine samples that investigators say are key to piecing together cases against drug cheats.

The committee was less specific about Russia's acceptance of responsibility, only saying it was satisfied that a recent letter sent from the sports ministry "sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia." WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said the reference to the "issues" was about accepting responsibility. Fitzgerald said WADA would not publically release the letter until after next week's meeting.

The document obtained by the BBC said WADA would accept Russia admitting to conclusions in an IOC investigation instead of a more critical report by WADA-appointed investigator Richard McLaren.

But, according to the document, Kolobkov did not agree to the change, instead restating to the committee that the country couldn't admit wrongdoing until its own investigation and legal process had been resolved.

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called on WADA to release any information it has received from Russia that shows it has met the criteria.

"Frankly, it stinks to high heaven," Tygart said. "Today, WADA has unequivocally told the world the type of organization it is: One that supports the desires of a handful of sports administrators over the rights of millions of clean athletes. It is a sad state of affairs for this one-time respected organization."

The recommendation goes against the pleas of a number of British athletes, who tweeted Thursday , urging WADA to stand by its roadmap for RUSADA's reinstatement.

At this point, the reinstatement could be seen as more symbolic than material. WADA has gradually restored many of RUSADA's functions, including its ability to coordinate one of the world's largest testing operations with help of officials from Britain and elsewhere.

Reinstatement of RUSADA is, however, one of the international track federation's criteria for allowing Russia's track team back into compliance; last year, Russia's track athletes competed as "authorized neutral athletes" at world championships.

WADA has also made a rule that doesn't allow sports federations to accept bids to host international events from countries whose anti-doping agencies aren't compliant. FIFA staged the World Cup in Russia this summer.

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