MOSCOW (AP) — With no national anti-doping agency to collect samples and no laboratory to test them, the number of drug tests in Russia has declined so far this year.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was suspended late last year after an independent investigation accused the body of helping to cover up positive tests. The same probe, conducted by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission headed by Dick Pound, led to Russia being kicked out of global track and field — possibly including the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Because of the suspension of the national agency, known as RUSADA, there was a three-month window of sharply reduced testing before UK Anti-Doping began to collect samples around Feb. 20, acting RUSADA director-general Anna Antseliovich told The Associated Press.
Some testing was still going on in Russia during this window, conducted by WADA and international sports federations, Antseliovich said, but "of course there was less" overall. She said she expects the numbers to remain lower than 2015.
Several Russians have tested positive for meldonium, the drug that was added to the banned list on Jan. 1. But most cases, like that of Maria Sharapova, appear to have been based on samples collected at events outside Russia.
"We don't have the numbers, because the testing plan is drawn up by UKAD, but the emphasis will be on target testing," Antseliovich said Wednesday in an interview. "It's not about the quantity of tests, but the quality. So, yes, the number will definitely be lower, but we can hope that the effectiveness will probably be higher."
Testers will focus on candidates for Russia's Olympic and Paralympic teams, while lower-level and regional competitions will typically face less testing.
Antseliovich, who took over as acting director-general in December, has been at RUSADA for six years but presents herself as a reformer. Hers is one of the toughest jobs in world sports — returning credibility to Russia's drug testing after WADA detailed case after case of alleged corruption and collusion, even including the head of the still-suspended national testing lab.
"From our side, we're doing all we can to get back the status of compliance," said Antseliovich, who admits that all RUSADA can do is conduct anti-drug seminars and give UKAD help with competition schedules and travel issues.
UKAD does not allow RUSADA access to its testing schedule and some of RUSADA's doping control staff has been cut because there have no work to do, she said.
"Basically, we consider (the WADA commission report) was objective and we're ready to work together and accept new experience," she said. "Our planning department has almost entirely changed, so that our foreign partners don't doubt that we're ready to change, as if we'd left some old staff working in the old way."
Antseliovich herself was criticized Sunday when German TV channel ARD broadcast what it said was a transcript of a conversation in which she agreed with an unidentified athlete to rearrange the time of a supposedly no-notice test.
Antseliovich said the recorded conversation was an attempt at entrapment by Yulia Stepanova, a Russian runner and ARD informant, and dated from 2014. Instead of rescheduling tests, Antseliovich claimed she was simply trying to reassure Stepanova that she would be tested often enough to be eligible to compete again following a doping ban.
Antseliovich said the matter was reviewed by the WADA commission, which cleared her. Asked Wednesday, Pound told the AP he could not recall whether that was the case.