Russia has dismissed the outspoken head of its national anti-doping agency, Rusada, after the country’s Olympic committee accused him of presiding over serious financial violations.
Yuri Ganus, who denied the allegations, said he was being removed because of his zero-tolerance approach to doping.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has voiced concern at his dismissal.
Mr Ganus was appointed three years ago on a mission to clean up Russian sport after multiple doping scandals.
He took a tough approach, increasing spot checks on athletes and refusing a request for a five-minute warning when inspectors were on their way.
Last December, Wada banned Russia from big global sporting events for four years, including the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Mr Gunus’s sacking comes as Rusada is awaiting the result of its appeal against the ban. BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford says that proving Russia’s anti-doping agency is fully independent would be a key condition for overturning it.
The appeal will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based Lausanne, Switzerland, in November.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told reporters the decision to dismiss Mr Ganus had been unanimous.
“We are certain that Rusada’s operations will remain independent,” he said.
Mikhail Bukhanov, a lawyer at Rusada, will serve as acting head until a new director is appointed, Mr Pozdnyakov added.
The appointment of Yuri Ganus was seen as a fresh start: a sign to the rest of the world that Russia was cleaning up its act in sport after multiple scandals over doping.
His reforms and principles angered some here, and last December he told the BBC he had had death threats. Then this year an audit uncovered apparent “irregularities” in Rusada’s finances. Now the DG has been removed following a unanimous vote.
Mr Ganus has called the report “deliberately fabricated” and believes he’s being targeted for being so outspoken about the persistent problems with cheating in Russian sport. In a chilling recent tweet, Mr Ganus wrote that he loved life and was in no way suicidal: he explained that was because in 2016, his two predecessors died in swift succession.
Wada said it had contacted Russian authorities to seek clarification about Mr Ganus’s departure.
“It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that national anti-doping organisations, such as Rusada, remain safe from interference in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work independently and effectively,” the agency said in a statement.
Last year, Wada’s Compliance Review Committee declared Rusada non-compliant over inconsistencies in a key database of athletes’ test results.
Mr Ganus later confirmed that someone had altered or deleted “thousands” of entries.