17th May 2018

WADA Report reveals Bucharest Laboratory concealed two positive tests

An internal World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Investigation Report, illegally obtained by Fancy Bears and emailed to The Sports Integrity Initiative, suggests that two Directors of the Romanian Doping Control Laboratory concealed two positive tests. The Report also found that the Romanian Laboratory had no reliable method for detecting the prohibited substances meldonium and pralmorelin, a growth hormone releasing peptide known as GHRP-2. As a result, the reanalysis of samples from three athletes that were reported as negative have revealed two positives for meldonium and one for GHRP-2.

The Report also reveals Director and Deputy Director of the Laboratory, Valentin Pop and Mirela Zorio, were directed to cover up the two adverse analytical findings (AAFs) by a third party. ‘The Intelligence and Investigations Department has important information that the actions of Director Pop were directed by an outside entity, and this entity was known to Deputy Zorio’, reads the Report. ‘As the role of the external entity is [the] subject of a separate ongoing investigation, no further details of this information will be included in this Report’.

The Report reveals that following a surprise inspection in 2016, WADA investigators witnessed Pop’s changing of the two samples reported as negatives to AAFs in WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS). It also reveals that WADA had concerns about the lack of independence of the Laboratory from the Romanian Anti-Doping Agency (RANA); about Pop and Zorio’s ‘limited qualifications’; and the lack of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to track the handling of athlete samples. 

WADA previously confirmed that its Intelligence and Investigations Department would report the findings of its investigation into Romania to the WADA Executive Committee meeting, which took place in Montreal yesterday. Its Foundation Board meeting takes place today. WADA suspended the Bucharest Laboratory for six months on 15 February, after it was provisionally suspended on 29 November 2017, due to a ‘number of non-conformities with the International Standard for Laboratories’.

The two ‘negative’ AAFs

The Report reveals that in May 2016, WADA received ‘Informant Information’ about the concealment of AAFs. On 1 June 2016, the Intelligence and Investigations Department seized 173 urine samples and 174 blood samples, which were delivered to the Austrian Laboratory for reanalysis. 

The Report says that of those samples, two were taken from two wrestlers on 8 and 9 April 2016 by RANA. On 27 April, both produced an AAF for furosemide, a diuretic masking agent, when analysed by the Romanian Laboratory. On 4 May 2016, the Report continues, Valentin Pop entered both samples as negative into ADAMS. Both wrestlers, who are named in the report, have since been sanctioned. 

Interview transcript from the WADA Report…

‘At 10.10 GMT on 2 June 2016, ADAMS user valentin.pop changed the “negative” result for both samples to an AAF’, reads the Report. ‘This was the day immediately following the Investigations Team inspection of the Bucharest Laboratory. Director Pop’s manipulation of the “negative” result to an AAF for both samples was witnessed in real-time, covertly and remotely, within ADAMS by WADA Investigator Mathieu Holz and WADA ABP Senior Advisor Dr. Pierre Edouard Sottas.’ 

Pop told investigators that he had reported both samples as negative accidentally, as the result of a ‘batch import’ into ADAMS, however WADA described this as ‘fiction’. Investigators found that the first ‘negative’ AAF came from one of seven samples collected as part of a 9 April RANA testing mission. Investigators found that six of the seven samples were uploaded to ADAMS on 28 April, whereas the ‘negative’ AAF was not uploaded until 4 May.

Investigators found that a similar scenario played out with regard to the second ‘negative’ AAF, which came from one of nine samples collected on 8 April. On 28 April, eight of the nine samples were reported as negative, whereas the AAF was not reported as ‘negative’ until 4 May. Investigators found that the two AAFs were ‘concealed amongst a Batch Import of eleven other negative samples’ on 4 May 2016.

Meldonium & GHRP-2

Interview transcript from the Report…

In its testing of the samples seized during its 1 June 2016 surprise inspection of the Romanian Laboratory, Austria’s Laboratory found that two of the samples had tested positive for meldonium, and one for GHRP-2. The Report found that the Romanian Laboratory had reported the two meldonium samples as negative on 3 March 2016, and the GHRP-2 sample as negative on 27 May.

‘The Bucharest Laboratory did not inform WADA of its specific inability’, reads the Report. ‘Consequently, it generated three false negative results in its routine analytical procedures. It was therefore non-compliant with ISL [International Standard for Laboratories] and related technical documents in force.’ The Report said that Pop and Zorio were made aware about deficiencies in the way in which the Bucharest Laboratory was being run in September 2015, and that by November 2017, it had ‘shown little improvement and repeatedly contravened the ISL’.

Conclusion

It is understood that the Report illegally accessed by Fancy Bears, which was sent to WADA stakeholders in November last year, is a preliminary draft. A member of WADA’s Laboratory Expert Group told The Sports Integrity Initiative that parts of the final Report had been written differently and as such, the November 2017 preliminary Report does not reflect the current situation. Also, it is not known how the Bucharest Laboratory responded to the accusations within it.

However, if the preliminary Report’s informant information is accurate and a third party is directing the Laboratory to cover up AAFs, then that is obviously a very serious situation. This is underlined by the fact that the Report was copied to Roxana Cezarina Banica, General Secretary of the Romanian Government.

As WADA’s investigation is ongoing, it refused to confirm the accuracy of the Report, but it did say that it is confident its emails have not been hacked. This suggests that the Report may have been leaked to Fancy Bears.

‘The Intelligence and Investigations Department’s investigation into the Bucharest Laboratory has identified evidence material to the accreditation status of the Bucharest Laboratory’, reads the Report’s conclusion on the informant information. ‘The evidence is compelling, if not irrefutable – examination of which is reasonably likely to identify the source’. 

The Report recommends that WADA’s Expert Laboratory Group can only examine the evidence through an ‘independent and external representative’. As such, it therefore remains to be seen as to whether a third party was directing the Laboratory to cover up AAFs, as alleged by the informants. 

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