Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) raises questions about why sport did not act prior to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, despite being presented with evidence of Russian State doping on numerous occasions. It is understood that Russian State doping dates back to Soviet times. In 2001, a study published by the IAAF illustrated that there may be problems with doping in certain countries. Sport’s governing bodies were also specifically told about the State operated doping system in Russia in 2010, 2012 and 2013. It would appear that they did nothing.
The IOC’s decision to ban Russia’s former Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, from participation in any future editions of the Olympic Games also raises doubt as to whether he can continue to be involved in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. FIFA has yet to confirm the results of an investigation into allegations that a separate sample swapping system is in operation in Russian football, and the World Cup is just six months away.
Mutko was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in October last year, despite being implicated in Richard McLaren’s Independent Person Report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as covering up the positive test of a Russian footballer whilst Minister of Sport. Mutko is also President of the Football Union of Russia and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for Russia 2018.
“The IOC Executive Board today has made its position with regard to the responsibility of Mr. Mutko very clear”, said IOC President Thomas Bach at a press conference today. An IOC statement said that it would not accredit any official from Russia’s Ministry of Sport for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, plus would bar Mutko and former Deputy Minister of Sport, Yuri Nagornykh from participating in all future Olympic Games.
FIFA and Russia’s Ministry of Sport have yet to comment on the allegations. ‘We do not deny that in our country there has been a violation of anti-doping rules’, wrote Vitaly Smirnov in a statement published by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which was today suspended by the IOC. ‘Yes, the anti-doping system in Russia in the past unfortunately failed’. As well as being Honorary President of the ROC, Smirnov is Chairman of Russia’s Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission (IPADC).
Russia denies that doping was state orchestrated, and argues that the evidence against it is based on the testimony of one man, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory. Dr. Rodchenkov was today labelled a ‘cheater’ and a ‘fugitive swindler’ by Alexander Zhukov, President of the ROC, who also apologised for doping offences committed in Russia.
However, separate whistleblowers same forward with evidence to support the existence of a State-orchestrated programme. This includes the Stepanovs, who presented evidence of such a system to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2010, and later collaborated with journalist Hajo Seppelt after WADA failed to act; Darya Pishchalnikova, who wrote to the IOC and WADA outlining the same system in 2012; and evidence provided by the Mail on Sunday to the IOC and WADA following its 2013 exposé.
Whistleblowers within Russia were threatened as late as March this year. Such evidence and actions do not appear to lend support to the theory that Rodchenkov was acting alone.
As previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, Russia has reached a ‘checkmate’ situation regarding Mutko’s involvement. To admit State-orchestrated doping would implicate him and may therefore threaten next year’s World Cup, which would be a political and economic disaster for the country. Following the IOC’s ban on his involvement with the Olympic movement, it will be interesting to see what action FIFA – an IOC member federation – will take.
The IOC decision to suspend the ROC also ignores its own culpability for failing to tackle systemic Russian doping, after it was told about the issue over six months before the start of the Sochi Games. Why the IOC chose not to act on extensive evidence provided by the Mail on Sunday in July 2013 has never been fully explained.
As highlighted above, WADA also has questions to answer about why it did not act sooner. Also, if it had been collecting and analysing the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) annual reports as required by Article 14.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, it might have noticed apparent manipulation of testing figures, dating back to 2008.
WADA’s alarm bells should have rung when Russia reported not a single adverse analytical finding at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. They might have rung again when the Sochi 2014 Independent Observer Report found that the Ministry of Sport had interfered with the Sochi 2014 Laboratory.
A blood database obtained and analysed by Hajo Seppelt dates back to 2001 and allegedly revealed widespread doping across sport. A 2011 study published on the International Association of Athletics Federations’s (IAAF) internet site, involving analysis of samples taken back in 2001, revealed (Table 2, right) that certain countries (i.e. ‘Country A’) may have had an issue with doping.
Supported by media exposure of their evidence, the Stepanovs and Dr. Rodchenkov managed to flee Russia. Dr. Rodchenkov is currently under the US Federal Witness Protection Programme. He has good reason to fear for his life.
Nikita Kamaev, a former Director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), had been planning to write exposing doping in sport. Kamaev died on Valentine’s Day 2016. ‘Presumably, the cause of death was a massive heart attack’, wrote RUSADA in a statement a day later.
Professor Verner Møller of Aarhus University had been in contact with Kamaev about collaborating on the book. “Kamaev wanted to write a book about not only doping in Russia, but about doping all over the world”, Møller told The Sports Integrity Initiative. “He had evidence that there was a secret doping laboratory outside of Russia. That is something that he wanted to show me when we met, but unfortunately we did not have a chance to meet before he passed away.”
The Founding Chairman of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinev, also died on February 3 2016. The circumstances of his death are still unknown, but Kamaev suggested on Skype that Sinev should meet researchers from the International Network of Doping Researchers (INDR) to discuss collaborating on his book.
Had sport acted when the evidence was put in front of it, the systemic doping carried out at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics would have been avoided. It is also possible that lives may have been saved. It is also possible that another ‘secret laboratory’ operating outside of Russia might have been discovered, as alleged by Kamaev.
The IOC and WADA’s continued failure to examine their own culpability for failing to address systemic doping in Russia could not provide a better illustration of why sport cannot be trusted to autonomously regulate itself. As well as refusing to acknowledge its own failures in dealing with the problem, it is also now trying to control the narrative.
‘WADA’s Board declared RUSADA non-compliant in November 2015, following revelations of widespread doping in Russian athletics that was [sic] exposed via WADA’s independent Pound Commission’, reads a recent statement from WADA’s Foundation Board. An earlier WADA release claims that Russian doping violations ‘were first identified by WADA’s independent McLaren Investigation’.
As we have shown above, this doesn’t appear to be accurate. The fact that an organisation that claims to have integrity at its heart can make such a claim should be of serious concern to anyone interested in the governance of sport – not least the athletes, who have been denied their day in the sun through sport’s continued inaction. Until the IOC and WADA properly address why they failed to act when the evidence was continually presented to them, suspicion will continue that they are part of the problem, and not the solution.
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