Sport Athletics Shock report: More than 1,000 Russian athletes doped
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Shock report: More than 1,000 Russian athletes doped

Russia doping
Scale of cheating may never be fully known. Photo: AAP
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Australian Olympic administrators and athletes are joining the chorus of doping condemnation after a new report revealed more evidence of an “institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy” in Russia.

The report – the result of a seven-month inquiry led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency – featured evidence more than 1000 Russian athletes across more than 30 sports were involved or benefitted from state-sanctioned doping between 2011 and 2015.

The athletes included competitors at the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics and the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

AOC vice president Ian Chesterman said the findings were “deeply disappointing”.

“The fact that they’ve had this blatant cheating program in place is enormously disturbing and I find quite disgusting,” Chesterman said.

“You are the custodian of the Olympic games, you don’t own those Olympic games and they’ve treated them with complete disdain [along with] the Olympic values that exist that all athletes should be operating to, and the vast majority do operate to.”

Australian rowing gold medallist Kim Brennan said the report highlights the need to give WADA more resources and powers, as well as greater independence from the interests of the IOC and national sporting federations.

“WADA has some power in terms of testing of athletes but they’re actually under-resourced to be able to do a better job in terms of broader corruption,” she said.

Kim Brennan
Rowing gold medallist Kim Brennan says the latest revelations show that WADA needs more power and resources. Photo: Getty

“We do need to have a governance structure that appropriately gives that watchdog the power to, without fear or favour, make decisions in the best interests of clean sport.

“Really importantly, we want to have a culture in sport that people can watch sport and actually believe in their heroes, and believe that good performances are clean performances.”

Australia’s Federal Sport Minister Sussan Ley said the new report shows WADA needs greater powers.

Ms Ley said the limits on WADA’s investigative and compliance powers should be reassessed.

“When WADA was set up it was not conceived that they would ever have to meet something as systematic and organised and government-sponsored as what we have seen, so we need to meet this challenge,” she said.

In February, Sochi is set to hold the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships.

Mr Chesterman would like to see Russia lose the hosting role.

“I would be expecting the International Bobsleigh Federation to be looking if there are alternatives,” he said.

“Hopefully there are alternatives, because what we shouldn’t be doing is rewarding systems which are obviously corrupt to the very core.

“I think the Russians are going to have to work very very hard if they want to get the trust of world sport back.”

Prof McLaren said the scheme in operation for London 2012 was based on athletes using a cocktail of steroids mixed with alcohol to limit the detection window, and on the Moscow anti-doping laboratory hiding positive tests by Russian athletes

“The Russian Olympic team corrupted the London Olympics on an unprecedented scale,” he said, while admitting that the scale of that systematic cheating may never be fully known.
Russia doping
Athletes include competitors at 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo: AAP

“The picture is clear, but it is not complete,” he said.

“We’ve only had access to a small fraction of the evidence possible to examine.”

Prof McLaren described the Russian doping program as “a cover-up that evolved over the years from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy”.

Russia won 72 medals at the London Games, including 21 golds.

“For years international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians.

“Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field,” Professor McLaren said.

Bottles holding samples opened with metal probes

The evidence acquired by Prof McLaren’s investigative team adds a further layer to the findings from his first report released in July.

That investigation was triggered by revelations made by the former director of the Moscow Laboratory, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who blew the whistle on Russia’s doping program in the New York Times in May 2016.

Russia doping
Dirty samples were swapped for clean ones. Photo: AAP

Dr Rodchenkov admitted that with the help of Russia’s secret service he had tampered with the urine samples of many of his country’s top athletes, swapping dirty samples for clean ones.

The latest instalment of the McLaren report backs up those assertions using three different investigative methods:

  • DNA tests on the samples that showed mismatches.
  • Tests on salt and caffeine levels of urine samples that showed they had been doctored to try and maintain consistency with initial samples.
  • Scratches near the caps on the supposedly tamper-proof bottles holding samples, that showed the bottles had been opened using metal probes as alleged by Dr Rodchenkov.

Questions raised over involvement of Russian minister

After Prof McLaren’s initial report was released earlier this year, Russia’s deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh resigned.

Vitaly Mutko, however, who was the head of Russia’s ministry for sport for eight years until October this year, was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Mutko was unable to meet with Professor McLaren while he was compiling his report.

Russia doping
Anti-doping officials say the drugs athletes are taking are more advanced than the methods used to detect them. Photo: AAP

The Canadian investigator said at the media conference there was no “direct evidence” Mr Mutko was aware of the state sanctioned program.

But he later told the ABC: “He’s in charge of the organisation — usually somebody who is in charge of an organisation at least knows in broad format what’s going in within the organisation”.

Prof McLaren said he had directly pressed Mr Mutko on the matter during his role as a commissioner in previous international commissions.

“I have had a discussion with him about this subject matter,” he said.

“His answer was a political one. I wouldn’t say it was a denial, but it wasn’t an admission.”

Prof McLaren has previously quoted Dr Rodchenkov as saying it was “inconceivable” that Mr Mutko did not know about the program.

Implicated athletes not named in report

Now Russia’s sports ministry has called on the nation’s sports authorities to look into the latest allegations. The ministry “advises authorities concerned to investigate incidents mentioned in (the) second part of (the) McLaren report,” the TASS news agency reported.

The Russian Olympic Committee and the independent anti-doping commission IPADC has begun studying the report, the committee’s president Alexander Zhukov told TASS.

“The documents need to be studied in detail,” Zhukov said.

IPADC head Vitaly Smirnov said Russian authorities neither supported nor organised a system to cover up doping.

“Despite the presented accusations I would like to point out that there has never been an organised system in Russia for the falsification (of doping samples),” Smirnov told journalists.

Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, now head of the supervisory board of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), meanwhile said the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) needed to provide definitive proof of widespread doping among Russian athletes.

The evidence is laid out for everyone to see in the form of photos, emails and 4000 Excel spreadsheets documented on a searchable website.

The report does not name the 1000-plus Russian athletes implicated in the doping program. Those names have been given to the relevant governing bodies who will make their own decisions about how to sanction them.

It is now up to the International Olympic Committee and other international sporting bodies to act on the revelations contained in the report. The pressure from athletes and sports fans who feel cheated will be immense.

– with ABC and AAP

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