Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
A number of inconsistencies about how Russian samples were identified for separate processing at the Sochi 2014 laboratory have been highlighted in the Independent Person (IP) Report compiled by Professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked WADA to comment on the alleged inconsistencies, however has taken the decision to publish them ahead of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) expected Sunday decision on whether to implement a blanket ban on Russian athletes from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The IP Report found (p15) that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Director of the Sochi 2014 laboratory and Moscow laboratory, had adjusted the specific gravity of altered samples to match the specific gravity recorded on the Sochi 2014 Doping Control Forms (DCFs). The IP Report found that information from the DCFs allowed the Sochi laboratory to identify ‘protected’ Russian athletes and manipulate their samples, however the IP Report appears confused about how such information arrived.
On page 59 of the IP Report, it mentions evidence from Rodchenkov that there were Russian state police (FSB) agents at doping control stations who sent the DCFs for protected Russian athletes to Irina Rodionova, a Deputy Director of the Centre of Sports Preparation (CSP) of the national teams of Russia, a subordinate organisation to the Russian Ministry of Sport (MoS). Rodchenkov claims that Rodionova forwarded the information to him, or his secretary, in order that the correct samples were swapped.
However, on page 68 of the IP Report, under the heading ‘identification of the incoming sample’, it mentions that athletes were required to take a picture of the bottle sample number and send that information to Rodionova. She would then send the information to Rodchenkov in order that the correct samples were swapped. The IP Report also lists the source of this evidence as Rodchenkov. Rule 4.9 of the Sochi 2014 Anti-Doping Rules (PDF below) do not permit photographs to be taken whilst the doping control station is in operation.
Although there is no mention of an FSB presence in the Sochi 2014 Independent Observers (IO) Report, it did find (p27) that ‘some Sample Collection Forms were required to be reviewed and approved by the Doping Control Stations Venue Manager before the samples were transported to the Sochi Laboratory’. The same report found that ‘the stickers could be removed from the Sample Collection Forms, indicating a possibility that the sample code could be transferred to another athlete, potentially seriously compromising the integrity of the process’.
The IP Report appears to contain two different versions – both from Rodchenkov – about how ‘protected’ Russian athlete samples were able to be identified at the laboratory. Article 7.6 of the Sochi 2014 Anti-Doping Rules prohibits documentation identifying the athlete from being included with the samples, and for identifying documentation being sent to the laboratory. Whichever method was used, this Article appears to have been compromised.
The IP Report and the IO Report contain conflicting accounts of how samples taken at the Sochi 2014 Olympics were consolidated for shipment to the laboratory. The IO Report (para. 7.10) stated that all samples were transported and centralised at one of three logistics departments known as ‘The Hub’, where they were then redirected to the laboratory. ‘There were deviations to this agreed approach in that on occasion samples were shipped directly to the Laboratory without going through the Hub’, it reads. ‘However, the IO was satisfied that overall this system operated successfully’.
The IP Report (p69) states that athlete samples were consolidated into ‘shipment lots’ at the Olympic Village, and Russian samples were scheduled into the late in the day shipment to the laboratory. Given that Article 7.6 of the Sochi 2014 Anti-Doping Rules – mentioned above – prevents identifying documentation from accompanying samples, the IP Report does not explain how Russian ‘protected’ samples could be reserved for late shipment to the laboratory.
The IP Report also appears confused about which samples were manipulated at the Sochi 2014 laboratory. Generally, an athlete will give two samples at a doping control station. The A sample will be analysed for prohibited substances, whilst the B sample will be held in reserve in order to confirm any adverse analytical finding (AAF) in case the athlete disputes the A sample finding.
The IP Report appears to indicate that only the B samples were manipulated at the Sochi 2014 laboratory. The IP Report mentions that Evgeny Kurdyatsev, Head of the Registration and Biological Sample Accounting Department in the Laboratory, slipped the protected athletes’ B samples into his coat pocket (p70), while taking the A samples to the ‘aliquoting room’ (i.e. the laboratory’s sample analysis room). He would then wait until a ‘convenient moment’ to pass both the A and B samples through the ‘mouse hole’ into the operations room, where Rodchenkov and FSB agents were waiting.
However, the IP Report found that FSB agents would only take the B sample away, remove its cap and replace its contents. The report then states that both the A and B samples would then be passed back through the ‘mouse hole’, and ‘the standard laboratory procedure was later conducted on the swapped samples as with all other samples’.
This raises a number of questions. Why pass the A sample through the ‘mouse hole’ at all, given that nothing was done to it? Why did Kurdyatsev feel the need to put the B sample in his coat pocket, given that he would be passing both the A and B samples through the ‘mouse hole’ later? How would manipulating the B sample protect the Russian athletes, given that A samples are used to indicate an AAF?
Blood testing was not mentioned at all in the IP Report. It is mentioned extensively in the IO Report. On page 18, it lists the Sochi laboratory as having conducted 1,917 urine tests; 417 blood tests; and 47 ‘blood passport’ tests. Does the IP Report’s focus on urine tests mean that blood tests were not compromised during the Sochi 2014 Olympics?
Certain practical issues also appear to require further explanation. The IP Report has accepted Rodchenkov’s explanation that the ‘mouse hole’ existed, but despite plans it obtained regarding the layout of the laboratory, it has not explained how it operated. Rodchenkov initially claimed that the ‘mouse hole’ was concealed behind a wooden cabinet during the day. The IO Report claimed that ‘a member of the IO was present across various times of the day and night during the Games to provide a view of the Laboratory operations at all hours’.
If the switches were made when nobody was watching, then why bother to use the ‘mouse hole’ at all? If somebody was watching, then how was the wooden cabinet moved without them noticing?
As previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, the IP Report also failed to consider WADA’s own failures to deal with allegations of corruption within the Sochi 2014 and Moscow laboratories. Firstly, WADA failed to investigate after Russia reported no positive AAFs at all from the Sochi 2014 Games. Secondly, as mentioned in the IP Report (p42), it wrote to Rodchenkov to alert him that a ‘surprise’ inspection involving the removal of samples for further analysis would be taking place. This resulted in panic at the laboratory, resulting in the destruction of 8,000 of 10,000 stored samples, leaving just 37 positives for which a negative report had been made in ADAMS by the time that WADA inspectors arrived.
Also, as previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, WADA failed to follow up on the IO Report’s concerns over interference in the Sochi laboratory. As also mentioned in this article, the first WADA Independent Commission Report was not satisfied with the explanation given regarding the destruction of 67 samples sent from Moscow by the Lausanne laboratory, which it had been asked to retain.
On Sunday, the IOC will have to take a decision on whether it should ban Russia from the Rio 2016 Olympics. From the viewpoint of a clean Russian athlete, this is manifestly unfair. If an employee were banned from working due to the actions of their employer, this would be likely to be viewed as an infringement of their right to employment. Pressure is being applied to the IOC by clean sport organisations, who themselves are under pressure from athletes who are rightly indignant that they could find themselves lining up to compete against a potential doping cheat at the Rio Olympics.
In such an environment, evidential certainty is vital in order to ensure that the rights of all are adequately weighed and protected. Following the release of the IP Report, the IOC released the following statement: ‘The IOC is reinforcing the request issued by the Olympic Summit on 17 October 2015 to make the entire anti-doping system independent from sports organisations’. The inconsistencies highlighted in the IP Report need explaining, as do WADA’s reasons for not examining some of its own failings, highlighted above, or the findings of the Sochi 2014 IO Report, which was released in March 2014. Unless this happens, the IOC’s resolve to make anti-doping independent will only strengthen.
• Robert Speed contributed to the reporting for this article.