SII Focus 18th March 2016

RUSADA may have manipulated doping test figures

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) appears to have manipulated figures concerning the number of doping tests it conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to analysis of the agency’s annual reports. The figures reported by RUSADA suggest that it increased the number of tests it conducted by an exact number each year, from exactly 14,500 in 2009 to 15,000 in 2010 and 20,000 in 2011. The World Anti-Doping Code required such figures to be sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on an annual basis. WADA did not begin investigating RUSADA until December 2014, and did not investigate the testing figures provided within RUSADA’s annual reports.

The totals were calculated slightly differently in each annual report. In 2009, the 14,500 tests were broken down into 7,868 out-of-competition (OOC) tests and 6,632 in-competition (IC) tests. Of those, exactly 1,250 were OOC EPO tests and exactly 250 were OOC blood tests. In 2010, exactly 7,400 tests were conducted both IC and OOC, but the total figure also included 200 OOC blood tests.

Of all the annual reports analysed (2007-2014), 2011 was the only year in which RUSADA provided a detailed breakdown of how testing was conducted. However, all the figures presented are round numbers and add up to exactly 20,000 tests. The Sports Integrity Initiative contacted RUSADA on a number of occasions over many months, however it failed to send a reply.

Research

The odd figures were first highlighted in research conducted by Carsten Martensen of Aarhus University in Denmark, at the International Network of Humanistic Doping Research (INHDR) conference in August last year. “It is remarkable how the numbers are rounded up and the development of the numbers upwards”, he said. “If you look at other countries such as the US, for example, in 2009 they reported 8,580 tests. They also list who has paid for the tests. This is how it should be done in my opinion.”

Martensen conducted research analysing the annual reports of national anti-doping agencies (NADOs) over ten years: 2003 to 2013. NADOs are required to publish annual reports by Article 14.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code. The same Article was introduced in the 2009 version of the Code and the 2003 Code requires NADOs to ‘at least annually, publish publicly a general statistical report of their Doping Control activities with a copy provided to WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency]’. His research suggests that this has not been happening.

“Countries that one would expect to be similar to Russia simply don’t report anything”, he said. “It was impossible for me to find out anything about China, about even Jamaica, Kenya, Brazil or South Africa. Approaching the [2010] FIFA World Cup, South Africa had a big reallocation of money towards the South African Institute of Doping in Sport (SAIDS). A lot of things were set up, reports were produced for three years, then once the World Cup was over, nothing. There is a lot of missing data out there on testing.”

Missing reports

Analysis supports Martensen’s claims that NADOs have not been complying with their reporting requirements under Article 14.4 of the Code. The China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA) internet site doesn’t appear to contain any annual reports. The ‘annual reports’ section of the Jamaican Anti-Doping Organisation’s (JADCO) internet site doesn’t contain any data, however it does provide testing statistics for 2013/14 and 2014/15 broken down by quarter. SAIDS does provide annual reports, but only going back to 2012.

Brazil and Kenya only recently established NADOs. The Brazilian Doping Control Authority (ABCD) was established by Presidential Decree in 2011. Kenya, which has been the subject of allegations that widespread doping is occurring in its remote mountain regions, established its NADO in 2012, according to the Athletics Kenya internet site. In any case, neither ABCD or the Kenya Anti-Doping Agency have internet sites on which to publicly publish annual reports, as required by the World Anti-Doping Code. This is concerning, given that the Rio Olympics are fast approaching.

UKAD

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) does publicly report testing figures on its internet site, however they are broken down by quarter rather than annually, as required by Article 14.4 of the Code. As UKAD has to report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – a government agency – it is required to produce reports based on the financial year rather than the calendar year, which WADA uses. A UKAD spokesperson said that this was the reason that annual testing figures are not published on its internet site, as required by the Code.

As previously reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, UKAD reported 33 Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) in the 2014/15 financial year. According to its Annual Report, UKAD spent £1.59 million on its contract with the Drug Control Centre, King’s College, London; plus £1.52 million on its athlete testing programme – a total of £3.11 million over the 2014/15 financial year. According to the quarterly testing figures on its internet site – which are also compiled over the financial year –  33 ADRVs were reported in 2014/15.

Although this gives a return of £93,939 per ADRV, this figure does not take into account the deterrent effect. Knowing that an extensive testing programme is in place will stop many athletes from resorting to doping in the first place, however measuring such an effect is impossible – for obvious reasons.

“One of the challenges is that if you have a successful deterrence programme that includes both education and the use of testing athletes to make sure that the risk of getting caught is significantly high enough, then you will have a reduced number of ADRVs, potentially resulting in a higher per ADRV cost”, said Michael Stow, a former Head of Science and Medicine at UKAD now with the English Institute of Sport. “But to me, this doesn’t indicate a lower return on the investment”.

According to the figures in the quarterly reports, UKAD carried out 7,643 tests in the 2014/15 financial year – however, in quarter one and two, UKAD refers to ‘missions’ rather than tests. It doesn’t define the difference between ‘missions’ and ‘tests’. This figure would mean that 0.43% of tests (or ‘missions’ in the case of quarters one and two) resulted in an ADRV. The real percentage return of ADRVs on tests could actually be lower, since a UKAD spokesperson confirmed that the figures include ADRVs “brought as a result of non-analytical findings”.

More money equals more anti-doping

“More money fails to give better anti-doping – it just creates more anti-doping”, said Martensen, explaining that his research had found that more money normally equals more tests, however a rise in doping positives doesn’t follow from increases in a NADO’s budget. He said that in some cases, increased testing doesn’t follow budget increases, leading to questions over what budget increases are being spent on.

As the picture above illustrates, more funding often equals more jobs in anti-doping. Budget increases could be being spent on intelligence – now a requirement for NADOs under Article 15 of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, but not during Martensen’s period of research (2003-13).

WADA requirements

Article 14.4 of the Code reads: ‘Anti-Doping Organizations shall, at least annually, publish publicly a general statistical report of their Doping Control activities, with a copy provided to WADA’. However, despite this requirement, a WADA spokesperson said that it was “not aware of the discrepancy that is being referred to”.

WADA said that it “relies on the information submitted by ADOs rather than the published reports”, however said that the data for 2009 and 2010 was consistent with the RUSADA testing figures analysed by the Sports Integrity Initiative. It also appears that RUSADA failed to submit its testing figures to WADA during 2011.

“We have no record of a submission in 2011 and therefore cannot compare these figures”, continued the spokesperson. “Since 2012, WADA has established a system, via ADAMS [Anti-Doping Administration & Management System], to collect comprehensive data on testing activity. This data – which is now a part of WADA’s larger Code compliance monitoring activities – is reported by laboratories.” However, that system was not in place during 2009, 2010 and 2011 – the years when RUSADA reported its suspect figures.

It is possible that RUSADA could have just rounded the figures concerned up or down in order to create an exact number. RUSADA could also have planned to conduct an exact number of tests, although pulling that off in practice would prove incredibly difficult, due to missed tests and extra tests required from athletes flagged as having suspicious blood values through the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme.

“To plan numbers in great detail is not out of the ordinary”, said Stow. “It would require both strong planning and execution of the programme to hit the exact planned numbers. It would potentially increase the rigidity of the programme, but it is feasible.” In other words, ADOs do plan detailed testing programmes and while hitting such round numbers is possible, it is almost unheard of and would make a testing programme less adaptable to change.

It doesn’t add up

However, analysis of the figures reported in the reports suggest that such meticulous planning is unlikely in Russia’s case. For example, the text of the 2011 RUSADA annual report mentions a total of 20,862 samples collected, yet the figures given in the appendix feature exact numbers adding up to 20,000. Why would they round the figures down by 862 tests?

‘In 2011, the sample collection department managed to collect 20,862 samples in 57 regions of the Russian Federation and in eight countries, including Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, and Latvia’, reads the report, which then states in the next sentence: ‘13,556 out of 20,000 samples were collected in summer Olympic sports which is a 3% decrease as compared to 2010 (14,334 samples)’. However, the 2010 report states: ‘In 2010 RUSADA collected and transported for analysis to the Anti-Doping Centre LAB 15,000 Samples, which is 500 Samples more (i.e. 3.4% more) than in 2009’. This would suggest that the 2010 figures have been rounded up by almost 700 tests.


Regional testing figures from the 2011 RUSADA annual report. Confusingly, these figures add up to 5,081…

Confusingly, the 2011 report also lists 6,425 IC tests as being carried out and 4,600 OOC tests, which adds up to 20,425. Yet RUSADA’s 2012 report trumpets the fact that it increased the number of tests from 20,000 in 2011 to 20,875. It also mentions that 7,892 IC tests were carried out by RUSADA in 2011 and 12,108 OOC tests, which do not match the figures listed in the 2011 report.

The 2014 report mentions that the total number of samples collected exceeded 14,800, when the sample collection figures it reports in a Table 1 add up to 14,436. This number also doesn’t match a later figure (14,887) quoted in Table 4. Yet no explanation is given for the difference.

Making it up?

With the benefit of hindsight, it is perhaps concerning that WADA didn’t follow up on the odd round numbers reported in 2009 and 2010 – especially when the 2011 figures didn’t arrive. If the figures had been followed up, the systemic doping that appears to have been conducted in Russia may have been detected earlier.

Suspicion that RUSADA has been making up its testing numbers are not new. In 2008, on condition of anonymity, a track official told the New York Times that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had grown suspicious of Russian drug testing results back in 2006. In 2013, the Director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, was arrested but later released without charge, or an explanation of what had happened and why.

Also, the fact that some of the most prominent countries in international athletics – such as China, Kenya and South Africa – were not providing annual testing figures ought to have been followed up. However, as WADA explains, this is less of a concern since 2012, since it uses data from the 34 accredited laboratories to compile its testing statistics.

A new broom

At the very least, the odd round numbers reported by RUSADA suggest that some serious manipulation of testing figures has been occurring in order to make it appear that there has been an annual upwards trend in the number of doping tests conducted in Russia. The fact that the figures quoted in the annual reports do not appear to match show how crudely this has been done, and present a cause for concern.

The mismatched testing figures are likely to be of interest to the WADA, which allowed RUSADA to resume activities on 20 January, but with athlete testing supervised by UKAD. “WADA is assisting RUSADA in its efforts to regain compliance”, said its President Sir Craig Reedie at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference last week. “To do this, we are involved in the restructuring of the organisation and we are appointing two independent, international experts to be in Moscow in order to oversee RUSADA’s transition to Code compliance”.

Heading RUSADA at the moment is Anna Antseliovich, who has been at RUSADA for six years, so would have been a RUSADA employee when the odd testing figures were produced. Antseliovich was accused of informing an athlete when a doping test would take place during 2014 in a recent documentary by Hajo Seppelt for ARD (featured below). Antseliovich has argued that emails and a recorded conversation are an attempt to entrap her by Yuliya Stepanova, the runner and whistleblower who exposed systemic Russian doping back in December 2014.

As expected, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) found last week that the Russian athletics federation (RusAF) has not yet done enough to be readmitted to international athletics. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games are now less than five months away and it is understood that the IAAF plans to take a final decision on whether to readmit Russian athletics in May. Given that the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has banned Bulgaria after a number of its weightlifters tested positive last year, the IAAF will be under intense pressure to take similar action regarding Russia.

The revelation that RUSADA may have manipulated testing figures will support those who argue that a new broom needs to sweep through Russian anti-doping before Russian athletics can be readmitted to the Olympics. As RUSADA tests all sport, any potential corruption could also involve other Russian sports.

However, it has been argued that a blanket ban on Russia is unfair on clean Russian athletes, who have done nothing wrong. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced that it would create a Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) who would be allowed to compete at Rio 2016. Could we see Russian athletes competing as refugees from their international federation? As events across sport in the past year have perhaps shown, stranger things have happened…

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