Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has insisted that the Russian government must allow access to the urine samples stored at the Moscow laboratory before the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) can be deemed compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The reinstatement of RUSADA was also specified as one of the conditions that must be met before the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) can reinstate the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) to international competition.
The condition was one of 12 outlined by WADA in a Roadmap to Code Compliance (PDF below), published yesterday. The samples have been held in the laboratory since it was suspended on 10 November 2015. Anti-doping authorities have not been able to access them due to an ongoing investigation by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR) launched on 8 June last year.
As previously reported, both the IAAF and WADA have trumpeted the fact that all athlete biological passport (ABP) blood samples held at the Moscow laboratory will be released ‘on demand’ to anti-doping authorities. “The blood samples are stored in a WADA approved lab in Moscow, which was approved post McLaren investigation to ensure that blood collection would occur in Russia”, said a WADA spokesperson. This is not the same laboratory as the one shut down by WADA in 2015.
On 11 May 2016, the WADA Executive Committee granted the Anti-Doping Centre Moscow an approval restricted to blood analyses in support of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). “WADA has granted approval to the Anti-Doping Centre Moscow to exclusively conduct blood analyses in support of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP)”, a WADA spokesperson told The Sports Integrity Initiative at the time. “However, this does not mean that the lab has been reaccredited”. That is because it is not the same lab.
Under WADA’s International Standard for Laboratories (ISL), such an approval applies to laboratories not otherwise accredited by the Agency, which are applying test methods and processes in support of an ABP program and in accordance with the criteria for approval of non-accredited laboratories for the ABP. To simplify, the Moscow laboratory is conducting blood analysis for the ABP and is releasing blood samples stored there to anti-doping authorities on demand. But WADA confirmed that urine and blood samples stored at the original Moscow laboratory from before May 2016 are under the protection of the SKR whilst its investigation continues.
Last year, WADA found that samples held at the Sochi 2014 laboratory had been swapped with clean urine by tampering with the sample bottles. Russia also has a record for destroying tainted urine samples.
WADA wrote to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Director of the Moscow Laboratory informing him that a ‘surprise’ inspection was due to take place (see page 42 of the first WADA IP Report). This resulted in the destruction of 1,417 samples (Russia claims 1,437 samples were destroyed).
That Russia has resisted access to the urine samples for so long could raise suspicion that similar events have again taken place. “We cannot be sure of anything”, continued the spokesperson. “We will only be in a position to evaluate the samples once access is provided”.