For those who love clean sport, discovering the extent of Russia’s state-supported doping program has been a nightmare realized. Russian whistle-blowers have come forward with evidence of shadow laboratories, tampering by state intelligence officers and swapped samples at the Olympics. This is a violation of the very essence of sport and — only months from the Summer Games in Rio — an assault on the fundamental values of the Olympic movement.
The scandal first unfolded with a 2014 German TV investigation into organized doping in Russian athletics, based in part on testimony from two brave Russians, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian antidoping official, and his wife, Yulia, a middle-distance runner. In the wake of that exposé, the World Anti-Doping Agency — the organization that oversees the global fight against performance-enhancing drug use in sport — reluctantly started its own inquiry. Known as the Independent Commission, it was given the job of determining whether Russia’s track and field federation was operating under a state-backed doping program.
WADA knew of the Stepanovs’ accusations for years; Mr. Stepanov was offering evidence of extensive doping in Russia since 2010. Yet the agency was moved to act only after the German documentary.
In November, the commission confirmed the Stepanovs’ claims in a report that described a “deeply rooted culture of cheating.” The commission’s chairman, the Canadian lawyer Richard W. Pound, believed the scheme extended to the highest levels of Russia’s Sports Ministry.
Since these findings, the position of my organization, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code, has not wavered: To protect clean athletes, the Russian track and field federation must not be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics.
The decision to bar Russian athletes ultimately rests with the International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport’s international governing body, which meets on June 17. But along with many athletes and other advocates of clean sport, USADA has been calling for a comprehensive investigation of all Russian sport, beyond just track and field, since the November revelations.
For over seven months, these calls fell on deaf ears. Only in the last week did WADA finally embrace the demands of clean athletes like Beckie Scott, a Canadian Olympian in cross-country skiing who sits on WADA’s athlete advisory committee, for a further investigation.
Many were dismayed to learn, though, that WADA initially intended the investigation to be an in-house affair. Only after Ms. Scott and others, including the Russian whistle-blowers, insisted on the commission’s independence, did WADA appoint an outsider, the esteemed sports arbitrator Richard McLaren, to lead it.
This is a step in the right direction, but Mr. McLaren’s mandate is too narrow. He must have the authority to investigate all Russian sports.
The task for his team is extremely difficult, with the Olympic Games now less than 80 days away. The investigation must be far more than an exercise in public relations. It must conduct extensive interviews with whistle-blowers like the former Russian laboratory director Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, whose evidence of state-run doping at the Sochi lab led to this new investigation, as well as with national team trainers, coaches, doctors, athletes and laboratory staff. The McLaren team must have access to all the available evidence; the samples saved from Sochi should be guarded like a crime scene.
The investigation must also put to the test the recent, welcome declaration by President Vladimir V. Putin that Russia is prepared to cooperate fully with the McLaren commission, by conducting forensic examination of electronic data at labs in Moscow and Sochi, as well as at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and the Russian Sports Ministry.
Mr. McLaren must also look into disturbing reports of further efforts by operatives from the Russian Federal Security Service to interfere with the testing of Russian athletes. WADA also learned that Russian officials have demanded 30 days’ notice before testing Russian athletes in so-called military cities — a clear violation of international antidoping standards.
If WADA verifies such obstruction in the lead-up to Rio, then the entire Russian delegation should be barred not only from the 2016 Olympic Games but from international competition indefinitely — until full cooperation with the McLaren commission is assured, robust testing is in place and clear sanctions are established. Russia cannot expect to compete if it refuses to provide antidoping officials full access to its athletes.
The decision to investigate, and, if necessary, punish Russia for doping is not easy, but it is the right thing to do.
Finally, WADA’s foot-dragging has raised serious questions about the agency’s willingness to do its job. Since it was founded in 2000, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has advocated separation between those who promote sport and those who police it. To do otherwise is to have the fox guarding the henhouse.
WADA’s governing rules allow its board members also to serve in an executive capacity for sports organizations. This inevitably gives rise to conflicts of interest.
The good news is that this structural failing could be easily solved: The agency’s conflict-of-interest policy should prohibit all board members from having any governing role within a sports organization under WADA’s jurisdiction.
The calls for action are growing louder. The International Olympic Committee’s president, Thomas Bach, wants “zero tolerance” enforcement on doping, while the United States Olympic Committee’s chief executive, Scott Blackmun, has acknowledged that the current antidoping system may be “flawed.”
Demand for strong leadership and answers from within the world of antidoping is at a record high. The McLaren investigation into Russia must encompass all Russian sports, and WADA must demonstrate that the principle of accountability will be applied as rigorously to a state-run doping program as it has been to individual athletes. This is the only way for the agency to restore public confidence after its tepid response to the Russian scandal. Clean athletes deserve nothing less.
Travis T. Tygart is the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.