Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Sir Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has written a strong response (PDF below) to Victoria Aggar, a member of the WADA Athlete Committee, defending the agency’s decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). Aggar wrote a public letter to Reedie last week expressing ‘serious concerns’ about WADA’s decision to ‘alter its own Roadmap for Russian Compliance […] despite the country not yet having publicly accepted the McLaren Report nor having granted WADA access to the laboratory’.
Reedie states that the decision to reinstate RUSADA was ‘the right thing to do for world sport and for clean athletes’. He adds that Russia has now accepted, ‘for the first time’, that there was ‘systemic doping organised with the implication of people working within the Ministry of Sport’. He adds that Russia has now ‘provided access for independent experts to vital data’ from the Moscow Laboratory. ‘Is that not what we all want?’ he asks.
Reedie is also critical of Agar’s condemnation of WADA for failing to respond to the Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment of seven officers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) for hacking into the world’s anti-doping systems. Reedie references a ‘statement that was provided to media’ that is appended to his letter. The 4 October statement does not appear on WADA’s internet site, was not sent via its WADA Communications email, and it does not appear on WADA’s Twitter account.
The Sports Integrity Initiative understands that the statement was sent in reply to media who asked WADA to comment on announcements made by a number of countries – including the DoJ – about intelligence indicating that the seven GRU officers were behind hacks into the world’s anti-doping organisations. The statement also doesn’t mention Russia once.
Reedie’s response to Aggar focuses on ‘the right thing to do for world sport and for clean athletes’ based on a number of assumptions as to what the decision to reinstate RUSADA has achieved. The first achievement claimed by Reedie is that Russia has accepted that there was ‘systemic doping organised with the implication of people working within the Ministry of Sport’. Whether Russia has accepted this is open to interpretation.
As previously reported, WADA decided that a letter from Russian Minister for Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, stating that: ‘The Russian Federation fully accepted the decision of the IOC Executive Board of December 5, 2017 that was made based on the findings of the Schmid Report’ amounted to ‘acceptance of all of the findings of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Schmid Report (which itself endorsed the core findings of the WADA-commissioned McLaren Investigation reports), including that “a number of individuals within the Ministry of Sport and its subordinated entities” were involved in the manipulations of the anti-doping system in Russia’.
Taken at face value, Kolobkov’s statement only accepts the IOC decision of 5 December 2017, which was to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and to allow certain athletes to compete in PyeongChang 2018 under the Olympic flag. Kolobkov has not said that Russia accepts the Schmid Report, only the IOC’s decision to suspend the ROC based on the findings of the Report. That is very different from accepting that there was a systemic doping system in Russia involving the country’s Ministry of Sports.
Additionally, Russia has never disputed that corrupt officials may have manipulated the doping control process in Russia, just that State authorities directed such manipulation. For example, the investigative committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) has been pursuing charges against Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, since 8 June 2016. Rodchenkov was also an agent of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and so is considered a State official. So, in effect, Kolobkov’s letter doesn’t admit or acknowledge anything new, despite Reedie’s claim that it has acknowledged systemic doping ‘for the first time’.
Secondly, Reedie’s letter claims that Russia has agreed to provide independent experts access to vital data from the Moscow Laboratory. Again, whether Russia has done this is open to interpretation.
As previously reported, it would appear that WADA has consented to the SKR managing its access to the LIMS database and the urine samples that have been stored at the Laboratory since its suspension on 10 November 2015. In his letter to WADA, Kolobkov outlines that: ‘After the re-instatement of RUSADA and the consent of the Russian Investigative Committee, we will provide as soon as possible to an independent expert, agreeable to WADA and the Investigative Committee, the access to the analytical equipment to retrieve (under the supervision of the Russian Investigative Committee and under conditions that preserve the integrity of the evidence) an authentic copy of the LIMS data and of the raw analytical data mentioned in your letter’.
Kolobkov is referring to a 22 June letter from Reedie, in which he requests access to ‘a copy of the raw analytical data which is linked to the initial and confirmation testing procedure on those samples contained in the LIMS data […] This raw data will allow identification of any true Adverse Analytical Findings and will eliminate many of the LIMS suspicious results. This will resolve any questions on the number of Russian athletes who may have doped and will remove the cloud of suspicion that currently exists […] In a second step, WADA will then ask for access, for re-analyses purposes, only to those samples which have been identified by the raw data as being true Adverse Analytical Findings. This number is likely to be very limited and once again can be done jointly with the Investigative Committee. If any adverse findings are established, the Results Management can be conducted by RUSADA.’
There are a number of points to note from this exchange of letters:
1. Kolobkov outlines access to both the samples and the LIMS database depends on the ‘consent’ of the SKR.
2. The Russian Ministry of Sport will be providing the independent expert used to analyse the LIMS data and samples, which WADA will be required to approve or reject.
3. Kolobkov only commits to providing an independent expert with access to analytical equipment to retrieve the LIMS data and urine samples – not access to the data and samples themselves, and not the full access to both, as originally sought by WADA.
4. The independent expert’s access to the analytical equipment must be supervised by the SKR.
Even under such limited access, conditions are specified by Kolobkov in his letter. He outlines that if adverse analytical findings (AAFs) are discovered, ‘we will work in a spirit of cooperation with WADA and the Investigative Committee and in compliance with the Russian Criminal Procedure Code to enable the independent re-testing of these samples in accordance with the International Standard for Laboratories’.
‘We now have a clear and strict timetable by which we must receive the data from the Moscow Laboratory’, states Reedie’s letter. ‘Is that not what we all want?’ Again, this is open to interpretation.
Whether access to data enabling prosecution of Russian athletes is what the global anti-doping community wants is subject to debate. For many, rather than enabling further sanctioning of Russian athletes, withholding the reinstatement of RUSADA was about holding the real cheats to account – those who directed the systemic doping system in Russia.
It is also subject to interpretation as to whether WADA’s access to the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can be viewed as an achievement of its negotiations with Russia. Reedie’s letter emphasises that access to the Laboratory data is the ‘missing piece of the puzzle’ that ‘will help conclude WADA’s McLaren and Operation LIMS investigations’ and this will enable WADA to ‘prosecute cheaters’. However WADA already has a copy of the database, which it was given (it uses the term ‘obtained’) by Dr. Rodchenkov last year.
The reason that people – especially athletes – feel strongly about this is because of the perception that WADA is not holding Russian officials to the same high standards that it expects from athletes. An athlete confronted with a positive test must prove that they are innocent by demonstrating how a prohibited substance entered their system. If they fail to do this, they are likely to be sanctioned with a four year ban for intentional doping.
Reedie’s letter almost apologises for the fact that Russian officials have not been held to the same high standards. ‘Maybe one day the Russian authorities might have accepted the roadmap conditions to the letter; maybe not. But while we waited and argued, the competitions still carried on and potential cheats still competed […] and ultimately, we risked a return to the previous regime.’
It is hard to imagine WADA speaking the same way about an athlete confronted with a positive test. Reedie’s letter also makes it clear that WADA’s priority in reinstating RUSADA is not holding the real cheats to account, but is about enabling further prosecution of athletes, many of whom had little choice but to participate in a corrupt system.
As previously reported, WADA was told about what was going on in Russia on a number of occasions. Officials and athletes were either complicit in such a system, or they gave up their right to compete and/or their job in order to expose it. In such instances, they faced perceived threats from the Russian authorities.
Athletes such as Yuliya Stepanova and Andrey Dmitriev were forced to flee Russia after attempting to expose who was behind the circumvention of the anti-doping system in Russia. Dr. Rodchekov has also fled Russia and is under the protection of the US Federal Witness Protection Program, after the death his colleague, Nikita Kamaev, in suspicious circumstances.
The dangers faced by such whistleblowers could be viewed as corroborating Russian State involvement in subverting the doping control process in Russia. The officials that were complicit in the system have not been held to account, and this is why many are angry at WADA’s decision to reinstate RUSADA. Officials directly implicated in WADA’s evidence, such as former Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko and his deputy Yuri Nagornykh, continue to operate with apparent impunity. It is not hard to see how this might leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths.
Yesterday, it emerged that Nagornykh, heads the sports sector at Russian Railways, a State-owned company that was a Partner of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Nagornykh was implicated in the Independent Person (IP) Reports produced by McLaren for WADA as responsible for which positive doping tests would ‘disappear’.
Reedie’s letter makes it clear that rather than pursuing these officials, who were responsible for managing a doping system offering athletes a choice between complicity or threats, WADA’s priority is pursuing anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) against such athletes. As WADA has allowed Russia to dictate the terms of RUSADA’s reinstatement via Kolobkov’s letter, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that WADA has indeed ‘moved the goalposts’, despite Reedie’s assertion to the contrary.
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