SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency dealt a blow to Russia's hopes of competing at next year's Winter Olympics by refusing to reinstate the country's suspended anti-doping operation, and Russia responded by insisting, as it has all along, that the government had nothing to do with doping.
At its meeting Thursday in South Korea, WADA said two key requirements for reinstating the Russian Anti-Doping Agency had still not been fulfilled: That Russia publicly accepts results of an investigation by Canadian Richard McLaren concluding that the country ran a state-sponsored doping program, and that the country allows access to urine samples collected during the time of the cheating.
Craig Reedie, the chairman of WADA and a member of the International Olympic Committee, acknowledged that improvements have been made but full compliance had not been achieved.
"There are two issues that have to be fulfilled and we can't walk away from the commitments," Reedie said.
The IOC has final say on Russia's participation at the upcoming Winter Olympics, and Reedie refused to be drawn in on what impact Thursday's decision might have.
"We do not have the right to decide who takes part in international competition," Reedie said. "I am quite certain that the IOC would prefer that RUSADA was compliant."
The IOC said it is working to ensure Russian athletes undergo sufficient drug testing before the Olympics.
The IOC said its executive board, due to meet Dec. 5-7, "will take all the circumstances, including all the measures to ensure a level-playing field at the Olympic Winter Games 2018, into consideration when it decides on the participation of the Russian athletes."
Russia has depicted the doping program that marred the 2014 Games in Sochi as the work of individuals, not the government. Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee and also a member of the International Olympic Committee, told WADA members that "We absolutely deny the existence of a state-sponsored doping system."
"It is clear that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren Report is impossible," Zhukov said. "Such a requirement cannot, and should not serve as an obstacle to the full compliance of RUSADA."
The Kremlin also repeated the denial of any government backing for dopers.
"WADA's decision was unpleasant news. We disagree with this decision and consider it unfair," said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We intend to continue contacts with the international sports community and organizations to defend Russia's positions. We are preparing for the Olympics."
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart described the latest development as "another sad moment in this entire sordid affair."
"There was really no other outcome, based on their unwillingness to admit what the flood of evidence proves," Tygart said. "Now clean athletes are watching anxiously to see if the IOC similarly will take action to finally stand up for their rights or not."
Before last year's Summer Olympics in Rio, the IOC refused to issue a blanket ban on the Russian team, instead allowing individual sports federations to determine eligibility of the athletes.
In the case of the Winter Games, the IOC has already vacated results of six Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics and banned them from next year's Pyeongchang Games, with several more cases still to be decided.
In discussing Thursday's decision, WADA director general Olivier Niggli said the conditions of reinstatement have been exchanged with RUSADA "over 25 times in the last 18 months," and were still not completely fulfilled
Though it's not fully reinstated, RUSADA is already collecting samples from athletes after WADA partly restored its powers in June.
In Moscow, RUSADA head Yuri Ganus said his agency had reformed to WADA standards and was now "completely independent," but that the key remaining demands were outside his authority.
Ganus wouldn't say if he personally accepts McLaren's findings or if the Russian government should do so, though he called the report "a very serious document."
Thursday's WADA ruling could mean Russia misses a second Paralympics after being excluded from Rio de Janeiro last year.
The International Paralympic Committee board is due to rule Dec. 19, spokesman Craig Spence told The Associated Press, adding that "clearly" RUSADA reinstatement remains a requirement for Russia to be admitted.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells, AP Sports Writers James Ellingworth in Moscow and Graham Dunbar in Geneva, and AP reporter Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.