The long-standing Russian doping scandal took another contentious turn on Tuesday, with the country escaping further punishment despite its reluctance to cooperate with investigators.
Russian officials had faced a Dec. 31 deadline for allowing the World Anti-Doping Agency access to a Moscow laboratory where samples were allegedly manipulated to protect Russian athletes from being caught.
Though WADA was not allowed to gather data until later, the agency decided Tuesday it would not penalize Russia.
In the U.S., anti-doping authorities expressed disappointment, calling the decision “unfortunately expected.”
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Chief Executive Travis Tygart blamed a system that allowed countries “to corrupt the Olympic Games and perpetuate massive fraud on athletes and the public.”
After the scandal broke in 2015, WADA took the critical step of declaring the Russian Anti-Doping Agency non-compliant. That changed earlier this year when officials ignored worldwide concerns in reinstating RUSADA, a move that potentially opened the door for banned Russian athletes to reenter the Olympic movement.
Missing the lab deadline could have put Russia back at square one with another suspension.
Like other critics, Tygart questioned WADA’s decision to stand pat before analyzing the collected lab data.
A WADA statement acknowledged that members of its executive committee were dismayed about the missed deadline and promised to take punitive steps if the data showed evidence of wrongdoing.