15th June 2017

Russia seeks to codify non-acceptance of institutional doping

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has instructed the Russian government to approve the country’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP) by June 20, which would codify Russia’s refusal to accept that institutionalised doping ever took place into legislation. The NADP asserts that Russia ‘never had an institutionalised and government-operated system of manipulating the doping control process’, despite evidence within the Independent Person reports produced for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by Richard McLaren suggesting the contrary. It also adds that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decision to ban Russia from participating in the Rio 2016 Paralympics was ‘without any factual justification’.

A June 11 Kremlin order instructs the Russian government ‘to approve a package of measures to implement the National Plan to combat doping in Russian sport, taken by the Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission (IPADC)’. The NADP was published by the IPADC on 23 May following six month’s work. After its release, WADA said that it would review the plan, however it has yet to publish its view on it.

In a speech announcing the creation of the IPADC on 22 July 2016, Putin stressed its independence, and tasked Vitaly Smirnov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with leading the IPADC and appointing its members. However, the IPADC Commission includes two members of the State Duma (Russian Parliament) and a Director of Russia’s Federal Medical & Biological Agency (FMBA), which is working with Russian sport to ‘optimise’ the performance of athletes.

It also includes heads of Russian sporting federations who are also wealthy businessmen. This includes Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who is President of the international Fencing Federation (FIE) and is one of the wealthiest men in Russia. WADA recently dropped an investigation into 27 Russian fencers, after the Russian fencing federation provided evidence that they had not been involved in doping.

The NADP’s denial of institutional doping, as well as its speedy creation in six months, also appears to be at odds with internal investigations into doping, which have taken much longer. WADA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have not been able to access any of the samples or Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) data stored at the Moscow laboratory, due to an ongoing inquiry launched by the Investigative Commission of the Russian Federation (SKR) on 8 June last year. The SKR has yet to announce when its investigation will be completed, or when the IAAF and WADA will be granted access to the data and samples held at the Moscow lab.

The plan also makes questionable promises without providing an explanation of how they will be achieved. For example, it includes a commitment to ‘promote the use of whistle-blowers – i.e. persons who will provide timely information about any anti-doping violations by athletes, support personnel, other sport stakeholders and sporting organisations’. However, it does not provide any information about how this will be done, which is worrying given Russia’s past treatment of whistleblowers including Vitaly and Yuliya Stepanov, Darya Pishchalnikova, Andrey Dmitriev, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and more.

It also recommends that the possibility of requiring manufacturers to label pharmaceuticals and ‘biologically active additives’ that contain prohibited substances with ‘a clearly visible marking, “DOPING”, with an indication of the year in which [the substances] were included on the Prohibited List’, as well as stipulating the penalties applicable to the athlete for violation. It also pledges to create a A ‘Unified Anti-Doping Database’ will allow athletes to ‘promptly obtain any reliable and operational information about the presence (if any) in medical preparations registered on the Russian Federation territory, of any substances prohibited by sport regulation’.

It could be that flesh will be put on the NADP’s bare bones following its approval by the Russian government. However until then, questions remain as to whether it will fully reform anti-doping in Russia, or whether the NADP is a complicated form of window dressing.

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