The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was declared non-compliant by WADA in December 2019 ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) plans to conduct a "virtual audit" of the non-compliant Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), after a planned audit earlier this year was postponed following the invasion of Ukraine.

RUSADA was declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code in December 2019 after the country was found to have manipulated data at the Moscow Laboratory.

WADA initially imposed a four-year package of punishments, but this was cut to two years by a three-member Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel in December 2020.

Russia's name, flag and anthem is banned from World Championship and Olympic events, with the country also unable to host or be granted the right to stage major competitions "unless it is legally or practically impossible" for them to be moved elsewhere until December 16 of this year.

Russia, assisted by Belarus, invaded Ukraine just four days after the conclusion of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 24.

What Moscow describes as a "special military offensive" has led to the International Olympic Committee recommending that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus are banned from international competitions.

The war has also impacted the process to reinstate RUSADA, with planned audits delayed in March due to travel challenges.

The WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board have met in Cairo yesterday and today respectively, where an update was provided on RUSADA's reinstatement.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli revealed at a press conference held after the Foundation Board meeting that a virtual audit is planned, but that this represented only a small step on RUSADA's road to compliance.

"We have decided that we will at the moment proceed with a virtual audit, which is not to replace the audit that was planned and had to be cancelled because of the war, but we will in the coming weeks [or] months have a virtual audit," Niggli said.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli, right, said an audit of RUSADA was one of
WADA director general Olivier Niggli, right, said an audit of RUSADA was one of "a number" of steps required for the organisation to return to compliance ©WADA

"It's one step, but there are a number of other steps that have to be taken, and we will have to see how things evolve."

However, he would not be drawn on a possible timeframe for RUSADA's reinstatement.

"We are continuing to monitor the situation and the conditions that have been set by CAS, and at the moment it is very premature to make any prediction as to where we are going to end up," he admitted.

"We will have to collect a lot more information before we can have full picture of the situation."

The WADA director general also answered questions related to the doping case concerning Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, who turned 16 last month.

After helping the Russian Olympic Committee to gold in the team figure skating event at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, it emerged that Valieva had returned a positive drugs test.

The sample in question was provided on December 25 and contained the banned substance trimetazidine, although it was only reported as positive by a WADA-accredited laboratory in Stockholm on February 8 after the conclusion of the team event.

Valieva was only cleared to compete in the women's singles event by the CAS, a decision which was criticised by WADA.

Niggli did not comment specifically on the Valieva case, instead pointing out that RUSADA has been given until August 8 - six months from the time they were informed of the positive test - to investigate it and reach a decision.

Olivier Niggli said the case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was
Olivier Niggli said the case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was "very much on our radar" ©Getty Images

However, he renewed criticism of the CAS decision which allowed Valieva to compete, and said the organisation would be monitoring progress on the investigation closely.

"As far as the investigation is concerned, I cannot comment, it is still ongoing, that's all I can say," Niggli remarked.

"As far as the case is concerned, it is now being handled at national level by the adjudicating body from RUSADA, and we are waiting for a decision to review it, so it is very much on our radar and we are waiting for RUSADA to do their work,

"The Code already has provision dealing with what they call 'protective persons' which include minors, and as far as a case like this was concerned, there are differences with a protected person compared to an athlete who would be above the minority age, in particular in terms of the level of proof that has to be brought and the proof of the origin of the substance.

"All of this was taken into account when the Code was drafted, and there are a number of provisions which are taking care of that.

"It was not the case for provisional suspension.

"I have to highlight it, that's why we were not pleased with the decision from CAS on provisional suspension because it was not an oversight from the drafter of the Code that we wanted everybody to be treated in a similar way when it comes to protecting the integrity of the competition and the level of provisional suspension."