Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Four of the 14 gold medals won by Russians at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics were won by athletes on steroids and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory helped cover it up, alleges its former Director, Grigory Rodchenkov. He also alleges that the Russian federal security service (FSB) facilitated this by managing the testing process at Sochi 2014, with agents working as Doping Control Officers (DCOs).
The extraordinary claims come from 15 hours of communication between Rodchenkov and former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) employee Vitaly Stepanov (pictured), both of whom are now living in the US for their own protection. Stepanov recorded the communications and passed them on to CBS News, which featured them in a ’60 Minutes’ documentary (featured below). Rodchenkov also told Stepanov about a ‘Sochi List’ of of doped Russians who competed at the Winter Olympics.
“WADA has watched the CBS 60 Minutes program, which revealed new and very disturbing allegations regarding Russian doping in sport”, said a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) spokesperson. “We will look into these without delay”.
It appears that the internal regulations of WADA and the IAAF delayed both bodies in reacting to Stepanov’s information. Stepanov revealed that he had warned the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about systemic doping in Russia by sending it over 300 emails and 50 letters over a three-year period. Stepanov says he was told that WADA had no power to investigate inside Russia, and pushed him towards journalist Hajo Seppelt, who used his information to create his December 2014 documentary. This tallies with a December 2014 statement, in which WADA says it had ‘already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary’.
“Before 2015, WADA didn’t have the authority to conduct its own investigations under the World Anti-Doping Code”, explained a WADA spokesperson. “At the time, we were only able to collect information and provide it to those that did have the power to investigate; in this case, the Russian authorities. The Stepanovs provided us with very valuable information; however, we did not have the confidence that passing the information onto the Russian authorities would have led to the scrutiny required. And above all, we feared that in passing the information to the Russian authorities, the health and safety of the Stepanovs would have been at serious risk. As soon as we did have the power to investigate (under the revised World Anti-Doping Code, which came into effect on 1 January 2015), we acted without hesitation by forming the Independent Commission. This was done at the earliest opportunity.”
In its December 2014 statement, WADA says that it passed the information to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In November last year, The Sports Integrity Initiative uncovered that the IAAF had been investigating allegations that Russian sporting officials colluded with the IAAF since April 2014. However, its own internal regulations meant senior IAAF officials were not aware that any investigation was taking place until January 2015.
“The only independent body to which this reference could conceivably relate is the IAAF Ethics Board and, if so, only the Ethics Board and WADA would know when and what information was passed between them”, said an IAAF spokesperson. Up until the IAAF changed its rules in November last year, Ethics Board proceedings were confidential. ‘The members of the Ethics Commission shall ensure that everything disclosed to them during the course of their duties remains confidential, including the facts of any case or issue and any deliberations or decisions that are taken’, reads Statute G of the IAAF Code of Ethics.
The IAAF itself was not aware of any referral until Stepanov approached it directly in January 2015. “I have spoken to the Medical and Anti-Doping Department and they are not aware of WADA having ever referred Mr Stepanov’s concerns to the IAAF”, continued the spokesperson. “They confirm that Mr. Stepanov was in contact with the Department in January 2015, but that it was a personal approach by him to the IAAF. By that time, IAAF staff had already referred the Shobukhova matter to the IAAF Ethics Commission (now the Ethics Board) some nine months earlier in April 2014. By the time the ARD documentary was aired in December 2014, the IAAF Ethics Board had been investigating the matter for six months.”
Stepanov said that he refused a bribe offered by the Vice-President of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) if he could prevent a certain athlete from being tested. “That official comes to me and he says: ‘this athlete cannot be tested. How much money do you need?’” When he told RUSADA, he was told: “What happens in Russia stays in Russia”.
He also alleged that on their first date, Yuliya Stepanova (then Yuliya Rusanova) told him that all her teammates were doping as well as her, and it was her impression that RUSADA was there to help athletes win medals by doing “fake” testing. As featured in Seppelt’s December 2014 documentary, video footage recorded by Stepanova on her mobile phone details the team’s Medical Director telling her how to get back on the doping programme. “It’s hard to believe that you are doing something wrong when everybody around you says that it is right, and there is no other way that you are shown”, says Stepanova, who confessed to taking erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, trenbolone and barabolin (steroids) in the documentary.
“It’s clearly the final nail in the coffin for Russian track and field”, said US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart in the documentary. However Vitaly Mutko, Russian Minsiter for Sport, appeared to disagree, dismissing the accusations as “speculation” in an interview with Russian news agency TASS. “Soon our athletes will have to perform at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro”, Mukto continued. “It is obvious that someone wants to harm Russian sports. Stepanov has exhausted the topic of doping in athletics, now he has started with the Sochi Olympics. What facts does he have, what lists? Why did he decide to make another revelation now?”
On 17 June, the IAAF Council will decide whether it can re-admit Russia ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics at its meeting in Vienna. At the Sports Resolutions conference last week, UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner said that it would be unfair to ban just Russian athletics, since other sports were also tested by RUSADA during the period in question. Yuliya Stepanova has also petitioned the IAAF Council to compete as an independent athlete at Rio 2016.
If she is allowed to compete, will other Russians also be allowed to compete under an independent flag? If so, how many? Who will test them? Banning some Russians but not others may result in accusations of unfairness. It is no wonder that evidence has been uncovered that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been discussing the situation with the IAAF at April’s SportAccord convention. Mark 17 June in your dairy now…
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