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Dec 16, 2014 9:27 AM

Dick Pound to lead WADA probe into Russia doping

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) Former World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound vowed Tuesday to get to the bottom of allegations of systematic doping in Russia as he leads an investigation into a case that has shaken the sport of track and field.

"We're not there to whitewash anything," Pound told The Associated Press. "We're there to get the facts, reach conclusions and make recommendations."

WADA announced Tuesday that Pound will head a three-person independent panel that will investigate the "grave" accusations of widespread doping, cover-ups and corruption in Russia that were broadcast by German television network ARD.

"If all these things are true, it's extremely serious for sport, for athletics, for the countries involved," Pound said in a telephone interview.

Veteran Canadian sports arbitrator Richard McLaren will also serve on the commission, while a third member will be announced later. WADA said the investigation will begin next month.

The panel will seek to determine if there have been any violations of the World Anti-Doping Code by athletes, coaches, doctors, trainers and WADA-accredited laboratories that could lead to sanctions against individuals or organizations.

WADA said the panel will review the evidence aired by the German broadcaster as well as "other information received separately" by the agency.

"Once the investigation is concluded, if it is found that there have been violations or breaches of the rules, WADA will ensure that any individuals or organizations concerned are dealt with in an appropriate fashion under the World Anti-Doping Code," WADA President Craig Reedie said.

The appointment of Pound indicates that WADA will investigate fully and without restriction.

The outspoken Canadian IOC member took a tough line in his decade as WADA's first chairman from 1999-2008. He previously led the International Olympic Committee's internal probe into the Salt Lake City bid scandal that resulted in the resignation or expulsion of 10 members.

"It's far too early for me to know what's going to happen, how fast we can do it, how much travel we may have to do," Pound said. "I think you have to wait and see what 'evidence' you get as opposed to what you may suspect."

Pound said he was already familiar with past problems at the Russian doping lab. He chaired the WADA committee that made sure the lab improved its operations to avoid suspension ahead of the Winter Games in Sochi.

The appointment of the WADA panel was welcomed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, whose independent ethics commission is also investigating the allegations.

"The IAAF takes this opportunity to reiterate its full support of the WADA investigation," IAAF President Lamine Diack said. "Our primary concern must always be to protect the integrity of competition in support of the vast majority of clean athletes, and we look forward to working with WADA to this end."

Earlier this week, Diack's son Papa Massata Diack suspended his work as a marketing consultant for the IAAF pending its investigation. IAAF treasurer and council member Valentin Balakhnichev who heads the Russian athletics federation relieved himself of his duties while the investigation is continuing. Both men were accused by ARD and French sports daily l'Equipe of involvement in coverups.

The German documentary appeared to show reigning Olympic 800-meter champion Maria Savinova admitting to using the banned steroid oxandrolone. Three-time Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova was also reported to have paid 450,000 euros ($560,000) to avoid a doping ban so she could run at the 2012 London Olympics. Shobukhova was eventually banned for doping and she said some of the money was refunded.

ARD also claimed the IAAF did not probe 150 suspicious blood samples from 2006 to 2009. The IAAF said it launched its biological passport only in 2009 and could only use the data collected earlier for target purposes.

Pound dismissed comparisons to the scandal surrounding Ben Johnson's positive test after the 100 meter final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

"The Ben Johnson thing was a one off," Pound said. "It wasn't a Canadian system of doping, whereas in the former East Germany and a number of the Warsaw Pact countries it was a little more organized and systematic."


Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap


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