Athletes want probe to go beyond Russian track team

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(AP) — Cleaning up the corrupt anti-doping system in Russia matters because of these stories:

—Cross-country skier Beckie Scott missed out on her Olympic gold-medal celebration in 2002 because she was beaten by a group of Russian drug cheats.

—Biathlete and cross-country skier Sarah Konrad was a first-of-her-kind, two-sport Olympian, but competed in sports where it was often hard to figure out who was clean.

—Runner Alysia Montano figures she’s been robbed of at least three bronze medals because Russians who finished in front of her at Olympics and world championships cheated.

—Olympic champion Edwin Moses thought he had seen the worst back in his day, when Ben Johnson’s doping tainted the Seoul Olympics, but has now been reminded that, yes, things really can get worse.

“What a mess,” Moses said Wednesday, shortly after the World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia’s anti-doping agency to be out of compliance.

It was the expected move after more than a week’s worth of sanctions and recriminations that came from an independent commission’s report about corruption in the track and anti-doping systems in Russia.

Now, Russia’s anti-doping lab, its anti-doping agency and its track team are all suspended — the first two by WADA and the latter by track’s governing body, the IAAF.

But to these athletes and many more, that’s only a start. They want assurances that the Russian track team won’t compete at the Rio Olympics next year, and they want to see WADA expand its probe in Russia beyond track and into other sports that they’re sure have been tainted by doping.

“It has to be acknowledged that this is a systemic policy in Russia that’s impacting their athletes in all sports,” Scott, a member of WADA’s athlete commission, told The Associated Press.

Scott finished her race at the 2002 Olympics behind two Russian skiers who were later stripped of their medals because of doping. She finally received her gold medal in 2004, at a ceremony in Vancouver, after a number of appeals and lawsuits were settled.

“It was a sensational moment, in that it was the first Olympic medal for Canada in cross country,” Scott said. “It could have been an even more incredible moment had I not been up against the amount of doping that was going on in our sport at that time. I don’t think things have changed very much.”

WADA president Craig Reedie said he’s open to expanding the Russian probe if evidence surfaces to justify that. But he also insists WADA needs to find more money to fund these investigations.

While those searches play out, the athletes keep waiting.

At the 2006 Olympics, Konrad became the first American female to compete in two different sports at the Winter Games. Then, like now, both sports had their share of doping troubles, and she knows the problems stretch beyond the athletes.

“We’re worried the Russians will scapegoat the athletes, and that the coach who told them to dope and the person who helped them dope will not be punished,” Konrad told AP.

Russian deputy minister of sport Pavel Kolobkov said his country is on board with the reforms needed to bring his country in compliance. There’s healthy debate about whether they can really all happen between now and next August, when the Olympics start in Rio de Janeiro.

Moses is among the skeptical. He said the only way to send the right message would be to ban the track team from the Olympics.

Moses won the bronze medal in the 400 hurdles at the Seoul Olympics, which got swallowed up in the Ben Johnson doping scandal — at the time, the most blatant and high-profile case the sport had seen.

“We saw the tip of the iceberg exposed then,” Moses said. “But never would I have thought that high-level officers of IAAF would be close to being indicted with a money trail for extorting athletes to get rid of positive drug tests.”

That is the focus of the second part of the independent commission’s investigation, details of which will be made public in the next two months.

Repercussions are expected. But some of the damage is hard to undo.

When details of the report came out last week, Montano, the American middle-distance runner, went on social media and detailed her heartbreak at being cheated out of medals, time and again.

Because she finished behind Russians who are alleged to have doped, Montano could be in line to win 800-meter bronze medals from the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 and 2013 world championships.

What she’ll never enjoy is that moment on the medals stand.

“I feel for the longest time,” Montano said, “I tried not to think about it not being fair.”

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