Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Russian investigators interviewing Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, have suggested he deliberately destroyed samples in order to discredit the anti-doping system. Rodchenkov admitted to destroying the samples in the first WADA Independent Commission (IC) report, published in November last year. In that report, Rodchenkov ‘admitted to intentionally destroying the 1,417 samples in order to limit the extent of WADA’s audit and to reduce any potential adverse findings from subsequent analysis by another WADA accredited laboratory’.
“In December 2014, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sent a letter to Rodchenkov, stating that all doping tests stored in Moscow were to stay there, to be unsealed if needed”, Vladimir Markin, spokesperson for the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR), told Radio Vesti. “Judging by what he says, and how hysterically he comments on his actions, we can’t exclude the possibility of this having been done purposefully, to discredit the entire anti-doping system”.
However, the first WADA IC report also found that a shadow laboratory existed alongside the WADA-accredited Moscow laboratory, whose sole purpose was to assist with covering up positive tests. ‘There is sufficient corroborated evidence to conclude that the second laboratory was assisting in the cover-up of positive doping results by way of the destruction of samples’, reads the report. ‘Pre-screened samples that were not positive could then be sent to the accredited laboratory’.
The IC also found that 67 samples sent from Moscow to Lausanne were also destroyed. It said that the Lausanne laboratory had ‘acted contrary to specific instructions’ by destroying the samples. ‘The IC is not satisfied with the explanations given for the destruction of the samples transferred from the Moscow laboratory’, reads the report. “We got an explanation from the Lausanne Laboratory, but we did not believe the explanation”, said Commission President Dick Pound at a press conference.
Although there appears to have been collusion between the two laboratories, the SKR appears to be pursuing a criminal prosecution against Rodchenkov for acting alone. It does not appear to be investigating potential collusion between the Russian Ministry of Sport, RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory, despite the IC finding that many people were ‘unwilling to speak candidly regarding relationships between Minsport, RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory out of fear for reprisals’; and that the Commission was ‘unable to corroborate allegations of direct influence by Minsport on the activities of RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory’.
‘In connection with the investigation, WADA sent on 9 December 2014 a letter to Rodchenkov requesting that all the samples stored at the time at the Anti-Doping Centre during the last three months starting from 10 September 2014 and taken later were defrosted and were stored in accordance with the storage standards until further instructions from WADA’, reads an 18 June SKR statement, announcing a prosecution against Rodchenkov based on him violating Part 1 of Article 201 of the RF Penal Code (abuse of power). ‘The letter stressed that soon the WADA would send instructions as per what next should be done with the samples and contained a request to confirm in writing that the letter had been received. Having read the letter, Rodchenkov replied to the WADA by email on 10 December 2014. He confirmed the receipt and assured that the samples were stored reliably. Despite this, on 12 December 2014, Rodchenkov – seeking to conceal flaws and breaches in his activity and by that to keep his position and to avoid early termination of the office – violated the requirements of the Anti-Doping Centre’s Charter, the labour contract, the governmental contract, WADA’s International Standards for Laboratories and the letter sent by WADA, and ordered the head of the registration office, Kudryavtsev, to dispose of 1,437 biological samples stored at the facility at the moment, 222 of which had been stored there for less than three months since the results of the tests had been issued.’
The SKR release also appears to suggest that Rodchenkov’s actions alone resulted in the suspension of the Moscow laboratory and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). ‘This also entailed violation of the WADA letter on storage of biological samples and WADA’s International Standards for Laboratories, which made the bases for WADA to start disciplinary proceedings against the laboratory and consequently removing its international certification. As a result, the Anti-Doping Centre lost the right to carry out its authorised activity. Rodchenkov’s actions also caused considerable harm to the state interests protected by law: violation of international interests of the Russian Federation; causing considerable harm to reputation; discrediting the state’s anti-doping policy; and removing the international certification of the laboratory created by the funds from the federal budget.’
The SKR has sent a request asking US authorities to question Rodchenkov on its behalf. “We have sent a request on legal assistance to the US competent bodies so that they interrogate him on our questions”, Markin told Radio Vesti. “Let’s see how they implement this request”. However, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has only recently sent documentation requested by the French Ministry of Justice to investigate allegations of corruption involving the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) – despite a request being sent on 13 November last year.
On 15 July, another WADA Independent Commission will publish its report into allegations that the laboratory at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – also run by Rodchenkov – was corrupt. This follows allegations that banned coaches are still training elite athletes within Russia, and a WADA report which illustrated remaining difficulties with testing Russian athletes. The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked WADA whether its report will consider the fact that Russian authorities only appear to be investigating Rodchenkov, and not potential state collusion.