SII Focus 11th November 2017

Russian investigation denies WADA evidence & State doping

The Investigative Commission of the Russian Federation (SKR) has refuted evidence relating to the doping methodology outlined by Richard McLaren in his report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) into allegations of Russian doping, and has found no evidence of a State operated doping system within Russia. It has also explained that a new database obtained by WADA may be unreliable, and has outlined new criminal procedures against whistleblowers who are understood to have supplied the database to WADA, charging them with obstructing its criminal investigation. This is in direct contradiction to promises made to protect whistleblowers in Russia’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP).

This also means that Russia is unable to fulfil the remaining criteria for RUSADA to be reinstated, as outlined in WADA’s Roadmap to Compliance. In turn, this means that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will be unable to recommend that Russian athletes return to international competition.

No evidence of State doping

In a statement (PDF below), the SKR said that its continuing investigation, launched on 8 June last year, ‘refuted the arguments of the independent expert of WADA’s McLaren investigation on the substitution at the Sochi Winter Olympics anti-doping laboratory of positive doping test of Russian athletes, as well as the existence within Russia of a State doping programme for athletes designed to maximise medals’.

The SKR said that it had collected ‘sufficient evidence’ to demand the extradition of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, to answer charges that he destroyed samples, in violation of both WADA’s International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) and a 9 December 2014 letter from WADA instructing him to retain such samples. It also stated that a number of coaches and athletes have testified that Rodchenkov distributed drugs.

‘Investigators questioned more than 700 athletes, coaches, the medical personnel of Russian teams living within the Russian federation, employees of Russian sports federations and the athletic training centre for Russian teams, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) ad the Anti-Doping Laboratory’, reads the SKR statement. ‘But none of them confirmed the existence of a doping programme. If there were any anti-doping rule violations, they were purely personal.’

The SKR statement also states that examination of the buildings used for doping control and analysis during Sochi 2014, as well as interviews with people who worked in the buildings during the Games, refuted McLaren’s evidence that samples were passed through a ‘mouse hole’ in the laboratory wall to Room 124 to be exchanged for ‘clean’ urine. ‘Questioned were builders, building security and maintenance staff who worked during the Olympics’, reads the statement. ‘An inspection with the participation of experts and the testimony of numerous witnesses refuted speculation about the presence of an opening in the wall of the building through which were rushed the doping tests of Russian athletes’. The SKR also pointed out that McLaren had not inspected the Sochi 2014 buildings as part of his ‘investigation’, which the SKR placed in parenthesis.

The SKR also said that its experts refuted WADA’s evidence that salt or distilled water was used to alter the samples of Russian athletes, as well as that sample bottles could be opened without invalidating the sample. ‘In March 2017, experts came to a conclusion about the impossibility of opening the bottle cap completely without destroying the sample’s integrity’, reads the statement. ‘Currently, experts are studying the controversial withdrawal of the School of Criminology, University of Lausanne, from a study on the possibility of opening the bottle when the lid is not fully closed’.

Database & charges against Tim Sobolevsky

Yesterday, WADA publicised the fact that it had received a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) database detailing all testing carried out at the Moscow Laboratory from January 2012 until August 2015 to WADA. In its statement, WADA outlines its confidence that the database is genuine, however the SKR suggests that it may be unreliable.

‘It was found that people in the United States cooperating with Professor McLaren, Rodchenkov and former Head of Doping Control Timothy Sobolevsky repeatedly called the former Director of the Anti-Doping Centre, Marina Dikunets, and offered on behalf of McLaren and WADA in exchange for a monetary reward, a refuge in the US or Canada and nationality of one of the countries, a database containing the primary results on the testing of athletes’, reads the SKR statement. ‘But these databases, contained on hard drives, were confiscated under the Criminal Procedure Law and are now at the disposal of investigators’.

The SKR said that Dikunets ‘voluntarily informed’ investigators about the offers, and all subsequent negotiations with Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky were recorded by investigators. It alleges that the actions of Rochenkov and Sobolevsky constitute obstruction of its criminal case. ‘In this regard, in relation to Rodchenkov, Sobolevsky and other yet unidentified persons, they will be prosecuted for obstructing the preliminary investigation (Art. 2, Art. 94 of the Criminal Code)’, reads the statement.

Tim Sobolevsky was implicated on page 53 of Part II of the IP Report produced for WADA by McLaren, but has since been working for the WADA-accredited UCLA Laboratory. It is also understood that he has been working with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as a ‘whistleblower’.

Stalemate

In its Roadmap to Compliance, WADA outlines that Russia must publicly accept the conclusions of the IP Reports produced for WADA by Richard McLaren in order for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to be reaccredited. The SKR’s statement makes it clear – if there were any remaining doubt – that this is not going to happen. The SKR statement explains why Russia’s Minister for Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, was able to confidently claim in a recent interview: “The main accusation is that in Russia, there is a kind of State system and institutional collusion. I can clearly assure you that this is not true.”

The WADA IP Report found that Mutko ordered the covering up of a Russian footballer’s positive test…

To accept the conclusions of the IP Reports would also implicate Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Mutko, who is implicated by McLaren as covering up the positive test of a Russian footballer. As Mutko is also Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, this implication could prove problematic.

In yesterday’s statement, WADA repeats its insistence that Russia must accept the conclusions of McLaren’s investigations. It also mentions that the ‘Russian Government must provide access for appropriate entities to the stored samples and electronic data in the Moscow Laboratory’. This is also likely to be problematic.

The SKR statement raises doubts as to the authenticity of the database that WADA has obtained. It claims that it has a true copy of the database on hard drives, which have been confiscated under Russian criminal law. However databases can be copied and it is feasible that Rodchenkov or Sobolevsky (or both) might have copied the databases whilst working at the Laboratory.

The SKR statement is careful to mention that its investigation is continuing. In a recent interview, Kolobkov made it clear that the SKR cannot grant access to evidence until it concludes its investigation. This would include the samples held at the Laboratory and the database held by the SKR on hard drives.

“As you know, in a criminal case, the investigation is in a very active phase”, he said. “Samples as evidence have been sealed and are in the laboratory. Access to them will only be possible after the completion of the investigation. Neither the Ministry of Sport or other bodies have the right to interfere in the work of investigators.” As The Sports Integrity Initiative has previously reported, it is questionable how many samples would be of use to WADA, even if access is granted to them.

The SKR is answerable to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. As its history reveals, it is responsible for investigating government departments and agencies. The Russian government cannot therefore grant WADA access to the samples stored in the Moscow laboratory, as required. A question as to whether Putin is willing to instruct the SKR to grant WADA access to the samples appears to have been answered in a recent interview.

“This is what raises my concern: the Olympic Games are due to begin in February while we will be holding presidential elections in March”, he told State news agency Tass. “There are vast suspicions that all this is being done to stoke an atmosphere necessary for someone where sports fans and athletes are disgruntled over the fact that the state is allegedly involved in breaches and it is responsible for that”.

It is no surprise that the discovery of new databases and new information has come to light as this stage. On 16 November, WADA will hold its Foundation Board meeting in Seoul, where its Compliance Review Committee (CRC) will put forward its recommendation on whether RUSADA can be reinstated. As outlined above, Russia has indicated that it will never be prepared to meet the conditions required by WADA for that reinstatement to take place.

As previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, a knock on effect of this will be that the IAAF cannot recommend that the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) be reinstated, and the IPC cannot recommend that the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) be reinstated ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. Once again, we enter political stalemate. Russia is painting a picture that WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are colluding to present unreliable evidence to exclude Russian athletes from international competition. Yet, at the same time, Russia is refusing to provide crucial evidence to WADA and the IOC.

Russian politicians are suggesting that Russian sport is being victimised by WADA and the IOC. The Russian media is also being utilised to present this view, as the interview with Kolobkov illustrates.

In response to a question about whether WADA is biased in its decision making, Kolobkov states that he does not believe that to be the case, but references “strange cases”, including “a hockey player with a positive test, also said that he kissed a girl and she had smeared some cream”, but rather than rejecting the implication that athletes have been let off easily, suggests that he “does not want to talk about such things”, as “we have enough problems”. This utilisation of the media has been ramped up by Putin’s suggestion that doping action against Russia is politically motivated.

The facts

The facts remain as follows: A database exists detailing all testing carried out by the Moscow Laboratory from January 2012 to August 2015. Irrespective of whether the database provided to WADA is the same as the one held by the SKR, its statement confirms that it is protecting the ‘real’ version of this database. The SKR has also not provided access to urine samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory from the period in question. The SKR has not outlined when its investigation will be complete and until then, WADA cannot access either the database or the urine samples. The SKR is not allowing WADA to verify whether the information it holds is accurate.

The SKR has also launched criminal charges against Dr. Rodchenkov and Tim Sobolevsky, two ‘whistleblowers’ who have attempted to provide evidence to WADA. This is in direct contradiction of Russia’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP), which promised to introduce measures to protect whistleblowers. An ‘implementation plan’ tasked RUSADA with developing such measures by 1 August this year. Such measures have yet to be publicised.

Ordinary Russians ought to be angry about this. Even if it were true that the Russian State was not involved in a doping programme, as alleged by the IP Reports produced by McLaren for WADA, Putin and Kolobkov’s statements appear to indicate that the Russian State knows enough about what went on to issue confident denials of evidence – even when it is independently presented to WADA. Once again, Russian athletes and the public that support them are being punished through political manoeuvring that has nothing to do with sport.

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