MOSCOW -- World Anti-Doping Agency experts have started the process of copying data from a Moscow laboratory that could implicate numerous Russian athletes in past drug cases.
"Work has started with the equipment, setting the equipment up and copying the database," Russia Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said Thursday in televised comments. "Work is proceeding with full coordination because we discussed all the technical and organizational details before then."
In an e-mailed statement, WADA didn't immediately confirm the data transfer had begun but said "the team has gained access to the lab and has not reported any issues so far."
WADA demanded in September that Russia turn over the data by Dec. 31 in return for lifting a nearly three-year suspension of Russia's national anti-doping agency. Many Western athletes and organizations criticized WADA for letting Russia provide data after the deadline.
An earlier WADA delegation left Moscow empty-handed in December after Russian officials alleged its equipment wasn't certified under Russian law.
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said if Russia's reports are accurate, "it's a good thing," but he still called for WADA to reimpose the RUSADA suspension and deal transparently with what he says are "9,000 presumptive positive drug tests."
"Until that is done and the actual urine samples contained in the Moscow laboratory are seized by WADA as agreed, WADA should declare the Russians noncompliant for missing the hard deadline of Dec. 31," Tygart said. "To be reinstated, they should be, at a minimum, required to cooperate with the dozens of international sport federations which have the responsibility to prosecute the thousands of individual cases."
WADA is seeking data covering several years up to 2015, when the laboratory was shut down on its orders. WADA investigations found lab staff routinely covered up failed drug tests by hundreds of leading Russian athletes across dozens of sports.
That eventually led to Russia being punished with restrictions at last year's Winter Olympics, where it fielded a smaller-than-usual team under the title "Olympic Athletes from Russia" and a neutral flag.
A vehicle bearing the insignia of the Investigative Committee, a Russian law enforcement agency, arrived at the lab earlier Thursday.
The Investigative Committee has sealed off data and samples at the lab as part of its own doping investigation. That has focused largely on depicting WADA's key witness, former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, as a liar who tricked innocent athletes into taking banned substances.