Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
A World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) document obtained by the New York Times states that to date, 96 decisions have been brought forward by international federations (IFs) from the 714 athletes implicated in the two Independent Person (IP) Reports produced by Richard McLaren, and of those decisions, WADA approved just one as an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). ‘With the exception of one case for which an ADRV will be asserted against an athlete following re- analysis of samples seized from the Moscow Laboratory by WADA that produced an Adverse Analytical Finding, no other ADRVs have been asserted’, reads the document (PDF below), which details an ‘agenda item’ for the WADA Executive Committee meeting in Paris on 24 September. ‘In collaboration with external legal counsel, WADA has reviewed each decision received to date in detail, including the evidence available for each athlete on the EDP website. For the other 95 cases, the IFs determined there was insufficient evidence to assert ADRVs and, following our individual evaluation of each case, which was confirmed by external counsel, we support their assessments.’
Part 2 of the WADA IP Report, published in December last year, identified 695 Russian and 19 foreign athletes as having benefitted from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests. WADA then forwarded this information to the IFs for them to process. In February, WADA warned the IFs that evidence in the two IP Reports may be insufficient for them to bring forward ADRVs against athletes named by McLaren. It appears that that warning has been proved to be accurate.
The document does not explain why just 96 decisions were brought forward by the IFs since May 2017, given that 714 athletes were identified in the Part 2 of the WADA IP Report. Other cases may still be in progress, but this is not mentioned in the document.
‘The Investigation was never intended to determine whether or not individual athletes identified had committed an ADRV’, read an email from a WADA spokesperson in response to questions from The Sports Integrity Initiative. ‘The Investigation confirmed that the process operated systemically across a spectrum of sporting disciplines and throughout national and international competitions held in Russia and abroad; and that, a significant number of athletes could have benefited from, or been involved in, the manipulation to conceal positive doping tests. WADA has been very clear as to what can and cannot be achieved based on the evidence that Professor McLaren was able to uncover. For many of the athletes identified, the only evidence available is what Professor McLaren could unveil.’
WADA recently told The Sports Integrity Initiative that it hadn’t been able to access the samples held at the Moscow laboratory, as they were under the protection of the Russian authorities. This would explain why to date, so few ADRVs were brought against athletes implicated in the McLaren Reports, as it is difficult to bring forward an ADRV without evidence. However, this explanation does not appear to add up.
Some samples from the Moscow laboratory were initially seized by WADA in December 2014, and the document obtained by the New York Times reveals that IFs have been provided with lists of relevant samples. ‘In relation to the re-analysis of samples seized by WADA from the Moscow laboratory, WADA has provided all relevant IFs with the lists of available samples for their respective sports (where available)’, it reads.
However, it appears that few samples may have been available for WADA to seize in the first place. Part 2 of the WADA IP Report revealed that after receiving a December 2014 letter from WADA announcing a ‘surprise’ inspection, 8,000 samples dating from prior to 10 September 2014 of the 10,000 samples held at the Moscow laboratory were destroyed. In the same report, WADA reveals that after receiving the letter, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Director of the Moscow laboratory, destroyed 1,417 samples analysed more than 90 days before 10 September 2016 (Russia claims that 1,437 samples were destroyed by Rodchenkov).
It is unclear whether the samples destroyed by Rodchenkov are included as part of the total 8,000 samples destroyed, or are in addition. If that is the case, simple maths suggests that just 583 samples from the 10,000 held at the laboratory may have initially been available for WADA to supply to IFs (2,000 remaining samples minus the 1,417 (1,437) destroyed by Rodchenkov).
Even if 2,000 samples remained in the laboratory, how many were seized by WADA and were of use to IFs is unclear. WADA did not suspend the Moscow laboratory until 10 November 2015. If the samples under the protection of the Russian authorities are from between December 2014 and November 2015, it is questionable how many of them would be useful to IFs, as systemic Russian doping had been exposed by then.
‘Unfortunately, many samples were disposed of by the Moscow laboratory, which means that they could not be re-analysed’, continued the WADA spokesperson’s email. ‘As well, requests to Russian authorities by Professor McLaren for additional evidence went unanswered. Together, this means that there simply may not be sufficient evidence required to sanction, with potential ADRVs, many of the individual athletes identified in the Report.’ The Sports Integrity Initiative is still awaiting clarification from WADA on how many samples were on the list provided to IFs.
‘Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who is an important witness that can support the findings of the IP Report, is unavailable to testify due to circumstance beyond WADA or the IP Team’s control’, reads the WADA document. ‘In addition, we were recently informed the date on which he could be available to testify is unforeseeable’.
Dr. Rodchenkov is currently under the US’s Federal witness protection programme (WITSEC). The former Director of the Moscow laboratory gave much of the evidence that McLaren used in his report, and featured in the Icarus film by Bryan Fogel. On 18 June last year, the Investigative Commission of the Russian Federation (SKR) charged Rodchenkov with abuse of power under Russia’s Criminal Code. It later suggested that he was at the centre of an illegal trade involving importing substances prohibited in sport from the USA.
Dr. Rodchenkov also alleged systemic doping took place in Russia ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. The SKR is keen to interview Rodchenkov as part of its inquiries, and has sent a request to US authorities to interview him on its behalf.
“We’ve acknowledged that this man [Rodchenkov] himself violated all the WADA rules, regulations and standards”, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport news agency. “And we’ve fired him. We are rearranging the (anti-doping) system but it should be rearranged so that WADA could also share responsibility. They should have been responsible for (Rodchenkov) before as they have issued him a licence and given him a work permit. They were in control of him but now the state (Russia) is blamed for it.”
Mutko doesn’t mention Rodchenkov’s claim in the Icarus film that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, personally ordered his release from a mental institution due to an invitation to visit the London 2012 laboratory and in return for Rodchenkov’s running of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic doping programme. Rodchenkov claims that the invitation to visit the London laboratory was only applicable to him. “You can imagine how important this was to Russia”, says Rodchenkov. This resulted in the dropping of criminal charges against him. “It was my redemption”, he says.
Rodchenkov pointed out that his boss was Russia’s former Deputy Minister of Sport, Yuri Nagornykh, who reported to then-Minister for Sport Mutko, who reported to Putin. It is perhaps no wonder that he refuses to testify.
The publication of test letter is likely to be seen by Russia as proof that the McLaren Report contained no evidence of doping. IFs are likely to debate whether Russia was so successful in destroying evidence of systemic doping that it may not be possible to bring forward ADRVs against implicated athletes.
Once again, the culpability of the organisations involved appears to have escaped notice. WADA told the Moscow laboratory that it would be conducting a ‘surprise’ investigation on 7 December 2014, ten days before the 17 December inspection took place. Had it not done this, the IFs may be finding it much easier to issue ADRVs today, as the apparently massive sample destruction would have been avoided.
Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Minister for Sport during this period, was directly implicated in the WADA IP Reports as covering up the positive test of a First Division Russian footballer. Yet he has been promoted to Deputy Prime Minister and is heading the organising committee for the FIFA World Cup Russia next year.
Yes, it is true that only one athlete has so far been implicated through McLaren’s evidence. However those in charge of sport’s governance structures also have questions to answer. It is perhaps time to focus on sanctioning the system rather than those who were its victims.
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