News 25th May 2016

Analysis: 14 Russians amongst 31 Beijing 2008 retrospective positives

Fourteen Russians are amongst the 31 retrospective positives announced from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) retests of 454 ‘selected’ doping samples taken at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. In a statement, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said that it had received notification from the IOC in relation to ‘14 athletes in three sports’.

Russian state news agency Tass, stating ‘Match TV’ (Матч ТВ) as its source, named the 14 athletes including ten medal winners (see table below). The list includes two members of the women’s 4 x 400m team, which took silver in Beijing and tallies with the ‘three sports’ identified by the ROC.

Three of the athletes identified have served doping bans in the past. Anastasiya Kapachinskaya was a member of the women’s 4 x 400 team that took silver in Beijing. She won the 200m at the 2004 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships, but was stripped of the title and banned for two years after testing positive for stanozolol. Denis Alekseyev was part of the 4 x 400m team that took bronze in Beijing, and has just returned from a two-year ban after testing positive for Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone in June 2013. Inga Abitova, who placed 6th in the 10,000m at Beijing, was given a two-year ban in 2012 for an abnormal haemoglobin profile in her athlete biological passport (ABP).

IOC response

The IOC could not confirm if Tass’ reports are correct, as it has yet to issue an adverse analytical finding (AAF) to any of the 31 athletes. The IOC’s Medical and Scientific Director, Dr. Richard Budgett, said that analysis of the athletes’ B samples will take place at start of June.

If this analysis matches the A sample analysis, then adverse analytical findings (AAFs) will be issued to those athletes concerned. The athletes will then be given the chance to explain how a prohibited substance ended up in their system. If they cannot, then an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) will be issued.

If an ADRV is determined, medal reallocation could prove tricky, as it would require the reanalysis of more samples. “A positive case involving a medalist may then lead to another retest of another athlete who would theoretically feature in the medal ranking”, said IOC President Thomas Bach in a recent teleconference call. “Only then, when we have the result of this other retest, then we would decide about the reallocation of medals”.

This could prove especially difficult if ADRVs are determined for the Russian relay team members. For example, in the case of Yulia Chermoshanskaya, this will involve retesting at least 12 more athletes before the final medal table for the 4 x 100m can be determined. As a single positive test results in team disqualification, if more positives are identified in those retests, then medal reallocation could become even more complex and take even longer.

Pressure on Russia

Currently, only Russian athletics is excluded from taking part in the Rio 2016 Olympics, as its membership of the IAAF has been suspended. That Russians make up almost half of the 31 retrospective positives announced by the IOC puts further pressure on the IAAF, whose Council will be deciding if Russian athletics has done enough to be readmitted at its meeting in Monaco on 17 June.

“’I don’t think the IAAF has any grounds not to restore our team to competition for the Rio Olympics”, Russia’s Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko told journalists. “Personally, I am in favour of individual punishments for athletes who violate anti-doping rules”. Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) such as Anti-Doping Switzerland and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) have called for a total ban on Russia taking part.

The IOC has appointed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate allegations that the former Director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, subverted the doping control process at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics anti-doping laboratory. Despite this, WADA has recently allowed the Moscow laboratory to perform blood analyses for the ABP.

“WADA has granted approval to the Anti-Doping Centre Moscow to exclusively conduct blood analyses in support of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP)”, a WADA spokesperson told The Sports Integrity Initiative. “However, this does not mean that the lab has been reaccredited”.

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