LONDON (Reuters) - World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) vice-president Linda Helleland has said she will oppose a proposal to reinstate the Russian agency RUSADA if it comes to a vote at a meeting in the Seychelles on Thursday.
The Norwegian, the most senior member of WADA's leadership to express opposition to the move, said in a statement that Russia had yet to satisfy key criteria for its anti-doping agency's readmission.
"I can see that progress is being made and I acknowledge the efforts done by RUSADA, but as long as the McLaren report is not acknowledged and WADA still has no access to the laboratories, I will vote against the reinstatement of Russia," she said.
A tabled proposal was "deviating considerably" from the original roadmap and WADA had to stay true to its values at what could be a defining moment for its credibility, she added.
"I am afraid that by opting for the easiest way out, it will ultimately hurt WADA in the future," Helleland said. "We have to stand up for athletes all around the world.
"If you choose to reinstate Russia, you defy the very wish of the Athletes' Committees and organizations around the world, who have very clearly stated that they will not accept a reinstatement now."
RUSADA was suspended in November 2015 after a WADA report outlined evidence of state-backed, systematic doping in Russian athletics.
It has since undertaken broad reforms in a bid to revamp Russia's anti-doping system and restore international trust in the country's sport.
According to the roadmap, for the agency to regain accreditation Russian authorities must acknowledge the findings of the WADA-commissioned report that found more than 1,000 Russian athletes benefited from a state-run scheme to conceal positive tests over a five-year period.
Russia has vehemently denied those allegations.
The authorities must also provide access to urine samples stored at the suspended Moscow anti-doping laboratory.
WADA said last week that its compliance review committee had reviewed a letter from the Russian sports ministry that "sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia," thus fulfilling the first of two remaining criteria for its reinstatement.
But a group of anti-doping leaders from around the world said in a statement on Tuesday they were dismayed by what they called a compromise.
Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping agency (USADA), told Reuters Television that WADA had to send a strong message.
"Let's hope they are listening to the athletes because the athletes' voice is loud and it's clear and it's do not reinstate because the conditions have not been fulfilled," he said.
"We all want the Russians back in. We want clean Russians back in...," added Tygart.
"I've been an anti-doping CEO for going on 11 years and I've never seen athletes and the public mobilize and speak out like this."
Katherine Grainger, head of UK Sport and Britain's most decorated female Olympian, called in a statement on Wednesday for WADA to maintain its current position.
"What doping steals from athletes is irreplaceable and the integrity of sport and competition has to be protected to maintain public trust and support. This responsibility rests with leaders at every level," she said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Peter Rutherford)