4th April 2018

Questions remain over RUSADA’s progress towards Code compliance

A Progress Report provided to the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has outlined that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has taken most of the steps required for it to be declared compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. A WADA spokesperson said that two major obstacles remain, but minor questions also remain as to whether RUSADA has adequately fulfilled some of the other requirements outlined in the Roadmap to Compliance, published by WADA in August last year.

RUSADA was suspended on 18 November 2015, after the first Independent Commission Report produced for WADA by its Founding President, Dick Pound, found that it was failing in a number of areas. WADA permitted RUSADA to plan, coordinate and conduct testing in June 2017, after a number of advancements were made.

Major obstacles

The two major obstacles remaining are as follows. Russia must publicly accept the reported outcomes of the Independent Person Reports produced by Richard McLaren for WADA; and it must provide access to urine samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory, including all electronic data relating to sample analysis from 2011-2015. Neither of these requirements looks likely to materialise in the near future.

Russia has taken a negotiatory step towards the first requirement by outlining that it is prepared to accept that there was a systemic conspiracy to hide evidence of doping at State level, but at the same time said it would not accept that there was a State plan to win medals through organised doping. Whether this meets WADA’s requirements remains to be seen.

The urine samples at the Moscow Laboratory remain sealed off due to a criminal investigation into allegations of Russian doping launched by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) on 8 June 2016. Ten days after launching the investigation, the SKR charged Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, with abuse of power under Russia’s Criminal Code. In July 2016, it suggested that he was at the centre of an illegal trade involving importing substances prohibited in sport from the USA.

Separate charges have been issued against Dr. Rodchenkov and his former assistant, Tim Sobolevsky, for obstructing its initial investigation by allegedly offering financial rewards to Russians in return for the supply of the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to WADA. It therefore appears unlikely that the SKR will turn over the stored samples until its investigations have been completed, and no end date has been specified.

Remaining conditions

A WADA spokesperson outlined that the two major obstacles are all that stands in RUSADA’s way before it can be restored as Code compliant. However, minor questions remain as to whether it has adequately complied with all of the other requirements outlined in the Roadmap to Compliance.

In an email, a WADA spokesperson outlined that the following advances have been made:

• The appointment of an Independent Supervisory Board;
• The appointment of a new Director General (Yuri Ganus);
• There are now new staff within the organisation;
• Education is being conducted with the national sports federations and through athlete outreach programmes;
• RUSADA doping control officers have gained access to ‘closed cities’ in Russia and we continue to monitor the situation;
• There is now an agreement in place for international experts to have oversight of all RUSADA’s activities;
• RUSADA’s budget has been increased, directly financed by the Russian Ministry of Finance;
• RUSADA’s TUE Committee members have been trained by the Finland NADO with UKAD still being responsible for overall TUE approval;
• Its Result Management and Appeals Committee members have been trained by the Poland NADO;
• An audit of RUSADA took place by WADA 27-29 September 2017;
• Training is planned for DCOs, BCOs and chaperones.

In August’s Roadmap to Compliance, as a remaining requirement, WADA outlined that ‘RUSADA must have full fiscal management autonomy in its funding from the Russian government’. It is understood that WADA’s concern is that RUSADA must be able to decide how it spends its money, and WADA has not specified how RUSADA has proven that it has such autonomy. It has only specified that RUSADA has secured further funding from the Russian Ministry of Finance.

In August last year, WADA also outlined that RUSADA must cover the costs of employing UKAD and the two international experts appointed to supervise testing in Russia until the end of their involvement in the project, ‘which is expected to end in April 2018’. The WADA spokesperson did not mention whether RUSADA had met these costs, or explain why WADA expected UKAD’s involvement in Russia to end in April 2018 back in August 2017.

Questions also remain as to whether adequate reforms have been made to close a loophole which allowed Russian athletes to avoid tests by stating their location within a ‘closed city’. Access to certain cities that contain nuclear, industrial or military facilities in restricted in Russia, and in June 2016, a WADA Report alleged that such cities were being utilised to avoid anti-doping tests.

An ‘implementation plan’ (PDF below) for Russia’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP) published by the Russian Federal Government on 10 July 2017 outlines that only Doping Control Officers (DCOs) who are Russian citizens will be permitted to test athletes in ‘closed cities’, and even they will have to apply for permits. Point 15 of the plan outlines that the Russian Ministry of Transport will be responsible for drawing up measures that will allow for ‘adoption of measures for issuing special permits to Doping Control Officers who are citizens of the Russian Federation for multiple visits to close territorial and administrative entities for the doping control of athletes’.

In its roadmap, WADA only specified that RUSADA must have access to closed cities to test athletes. However, it could be argued that the element of surprise essential to effective anti-doping tests is lost if RUSADA DCOs have to apply for permits to test athletes who list their location as within a closed city.

A rock and a hard place

Both WADA and RUSADA want a functioning anti-doping agency operational within Russia. Not testing athletes in one of the largest countries in the world is not an option, and it is in RUSADA’s interests to lessen its costs in employing UKAD to supervise testing of Russian athletes by complying with WADA’s requirements. But politics appears to stand in the way.

Testing figures indicate that some progress has been made. Between 17 July and 31 December, RUSADA has conducted 3,330 tests, in addition to those conducted by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), which has been supervising testing in Russia. A total of 59 anti-doping rule violations have been reported, 35 of which involve the presence of a prohibited substance in a sample (Article 2.1 of the Code); six of which involve the use of a prohibited substance or method (Article 2.2 of the Code); 12 of which involve test refusal (Article 2.3 of the Code); two of which involve missed tests or ‘whereabouts’ failures (Article 2.4 of the Code); and four of which involve complicity (Article 2.9 of the Code).

As mentioned, it appears unlikely that the two major obstacles to RUSADA’s reinstatement as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code will be fulfilled any time soon. As previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, accepting the conclusions of the McLaren Report is politically problematic for Russia, as following the conclusions of Richard McLaren’s first report for WADA, it promoted Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko to Deputy Prime Minister. McLaren has clarified that Mutko “clearly was” involved in the systemic doping outlined in his Reports.

Russia’s political difficulty in recognising the conclusions of McLaren was highlighted in the Taskforce Report to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council on 6 March. It outlined how the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Schmid Report had found that Vice Minister of Sport Yuri Nagornykh was involved, as was Natalia Zhelanova, anti-doping advisor to Mutko. Mutko told the Schmid Commission that he had ‘ultimate responsibility’ for acts committed by the Ministry under his tenure.

‘Russian politicians and the Russian media responded to these findings by claiming that the CAS had rejected Professor McLaren’s finding of a ‘state-sponsored’ doping scheme; and current Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov suggested the CAS decisions meant Schmid and Oswald should apologise for their findings of institutionalised doping in Russia’, reads the IAAF Task Force Report (PDF below). ‘Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin has continued to attack whistle-blower Gregory Rodchenkov (who made the allegations that led to the McLaren investigation) as mentally unstable, and has claimed the whole doping crisis has been contrived by the US in order to increase discontent before next month’s Presidential elections in Russia; while Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has accused the US of orchestrating the doping scandal in order to get Russia suspended from the 2018 Games, because they “can’t beat us fairly. … I think it’s a form of competition without scruples because the US team, obviously, are not capable of beating us fairly at sport”.’

Therefore, WADA and RUSADA remain in a political standoff, stuck between a rock and a hard place. McLaren concluded that organisations under the control of the Russian State were involved in the systemic doping outlined in his Reports. WADA requires Russia to recognise this for RUSADA to be reinstated, but to do so would implicate a Deputy Prime Minister who, until recently, was Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

The IAAF and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) require RUSADA to be reinstated before they can readmit Russian athletes to international competition. However, Russian athletes are now not the only ones being punished for a standoff between politicians and sport administrators. Revisions to the World Anti-Doping Code mean that until RUSADA is reinstated, international federations and major event organisers cannot appoint Russia or its cities as host of international sporting events. Perhaps that change will finally get the ball rolling, or perhaps the ball will have to stop rolling on 15 July before change can really happen…

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