Russian pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva must step down as the chair of Russia’s disgraced anti-doping agency RUSADA before it is allowed to resume testing this summer.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suspended RUSADA and its main Moscow laboratory in November 2015 after an independent commission revealed its central role in covering up and facilitating Russian sport’s systematic cheating. Since then, anti-doping in Russia has been run by British agency UKAD, while WADA has concentrated on overhauling RUSADA’s culture, staff and working practices.

According to an update on that work at WADA’s foundation board meeting in Montreal on Thursday, RUSADA is almost ready to be reinstated, with the removal of the controversial Isinbayeva being the final piece in the puzzle.

Yelena Isinbayeva was not mentioned by name during the meeting but she was clearly referred to (Sean Dempsey/PA)
Yelena Isinbayeva was not mentioned by name during the meeting but she was clearly referred to (Sean Dempsey/PA)

The double Olympic champion was appointed as the chair of RUSADA’s supervisory board in December – a move that mystified many in the global anti-doping community given her strident criticism of WADA’s sanctions against Russia and denials of her country’s flagrant cheating.

In a statement, WADA’s director general Olivier Niggli said: “WADA will keep working with Russia to help them return to compliance as soon as possible, which we are resolutely focused on doing.

“WADA, UKAD and our independent experts have been working tirelessly with RUSADA and firmly believe that allowing them to restart testing, under supervision, is a right step, in the right direction.

“Then, it will be a matter for RUSADA to meet the remaining reinstatement criteria that is outlined within an agreed roadmap.”

Isinbayeva was not mentioned by name during the meeting but she was clearly referred to, and WADA’s deputy director general Rob Koehler told his colleagues she would “be gone” by the end of May.

Getting RUSADA up and running again will be a major step forward for Russia, WADA and several other parties, not least the International Olympic Committee, which would like a compliant and contrite Russia at the Winter Olympics next February, and FIFA, which is trusting Russia with the World Cup next summer.

Russia, however, continues to dominant the anti-doping agenda and the other main announcement from WADA’s latest gathering was to detail how it intends to handle the next case of state-sponsored cheating.