Washington - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is set to
clear 95 Russian athletes investigated over involvement in the country's
alleged mammoth doping programme, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
A leaked internal WADA report published by the newspaper on Tuesday said the agency found it could not gather enough evidence against 95
out of 96 Russian athletes who it has been probing.
"The available evidence was insufficient to support the
assertion of an anti-doping rule violation against these 95 athletes,"
WADA Director General Olivier Niggli wrote in the document. The report did not
name any of the athletes under investigation.
A string of WADA reports has previously uncovered reams of
evidence that the Russian authorities ran a large-scale programme to help
competitors cheat international doping tests.
Russia's Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was declared
"non-compliant" with international sport's anti-doping code in
November 2015 and its track and field Olympics squad and entire Paralympics team
were barred from Rio 2016.
An independent investigation for the agency by professor
Richard McLaren in 2016 implicated some 1 000 athletes in the doping system.
Moscow has furiously denied that it ran a state-sponsored
scheme to cheat at international sporting events and insists it is doing its
best to crack down on dopers.
And Russian officials said WADA's decision only served to
shed doubt on the revelations in McLaren's report.
"In general the information of the McLaren report
appears to be incomplete and moreover in many cases unreliable," R-Sport
agency quoted Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the deputy chief of Russia's Olympic
Committee, as saying.
"For the moment none of Russia's 1 000 athletes
mentioned in the McLaren report has been found guilty or banned on the basis of
his information. Meanwhile, a year has already passed (since the report was
While this latest twist may help bolster the Kremlin's
claims, Niggli suggested to the New York Times that an absence of evidence did
not necessarily prove Russia's innocence.
"The system was very well-organised," Niggli said.
"On top of it, years after the fact, the remaining evidence is often very
Niggli said that investigations into other athletes
implicated in the doping scheme are on-going.
Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA is currently battling to
get itself reinstated, but faces a list of remaining WADA criteria that it must