19th February 2021

AIU sanctions show WADA was correct to sanction Russia

This week, five former Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) officials, including its former President, were sanctioned with four year bans for their part in falsifying documents in an attempt to assist high jumper Danil Lysenko (Данил Лысенко) avoid being sanctioned for a ‘whereabouts’ anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). Analysis of the Decisions1 and the documentary evidence behind them reveals shocking levels of collusion between officials at the very top of RusAF. 

Russia has perhaps been fortunate that World Athletics’ Decisions were published after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided to reduce the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) sanctions on Russia from four to two years. This is because Lysenko’s case suggests that systemic manipulation of the doping control process was still going on in 2018/19.

It was alleged that Lysenko was intimidated…

The findings cast doubt on whether Russian sport has truly reformed, or whether manipulation of sport’s rules and regulations is still occurring today. They are particularly concerning because they involve a young athlete (now 23, but 21 when events took place) who was apparently put under an immense amount of pressure by officials keen to distance themselves from blame.

The detail in the Decisions is likely to reignite a debate about whether RusAF should be readmitted to membership of World Athletics. And about whether the CAS should have reduced WADA’s sanctions against Russia.

Manipulation and collusion

The case revolves around fake medical documents procured for Lysenko, a Tokyo 2020 medal prospect as he had won Gold in the high jump at the 2018 World Indoors. He failed to provide ‘whereabouts’ information indicating a location where he would be available for testing for one hour every day for the second and third quarter of 2018. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics notified Lysenko of his third ‘whereabouts’ failure on 25 July 2018. As he had also recorded a Missed Test on 19 September 2017, this amounted to three ‘whereabouts’ failures in a year2.

At the time, Covid-19 was not a concern and there was a very real chance that the standard two year ban for ‘whereabouts’ failures could rule Lysenko out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This would be a major issue not only for RusAF, but for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), and the Ministry of Sport.

The AIU Decisions reveal that a meeting was held on 26 July 2018, where Lysenko told them that he had been ill during a March 2018 training camp and had been involved in a car accident in July. After the meeting, Yevgeniy Zagorulko (Eвгений Загорулько), who has coached a number of World Champions as well as being Lysenko’s Coach, phoned Artur Karamyan (Артур Карамян), a RusAF Executive Board member, who had family with medical connections. Zagorulko asked Karamyan if he could provide a fake medical certificate. 

Karamyan told the AIU that he agreed to ask a family member, who said that it was not possible. However the following day (27 July 2018), a fake medical certificate was delivered to Zagorulko, who gave it to Lysenko who passed it to RusAF. 

One problem was that the Moscow ‘SD Clinic’ from which the certificate had been issued did not exist. There had been a clinic at its given address, but it had closed in 2016 and had been demolished. Another problem was that Lysenko had apparently not read the fake certificate and told the AIU he has been treated in Krasnogorsk (Красного́рск), a suburb on the edge of Moscow. These two inconsistencies aroused the AIU’s suspicions.

On 8 August Alexander Parkin (Александр Паркин), then Executive Director of RusAF, wrote a message to Karamyan on Viber, explaining that the AIU required medical certificates to back up Lysenko’s story about being treated at the Moscow clinic. Dmitry Shlyakhtin (Дмитрий Шляхтин), then RusAF’s President, successfully urged Lysenko to undergo the tests in a series of messages.

Yuriy Ganus, former DG of RUSADA…

Between July and November 2018, WADA carried out an investigation with the assistance of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), whose Director General at this point was Yuriy Ganus (Ю́рий Га́нус). This found that the SD Clinic did not exist, and purported to operate from a fake address in Moscow using licenses issued to other companies. It also found that medical documents had been falsified. Both Shlyakhtin and Karamyan were found to have destroyed evidence.

On 5 February 2019, Paul Greene withdrew as Lysenko’s Counsel after he told him he could not tell the truth about the document falsification for ‘personal safety reasons’. Artem Patsev, Managing Partner at the Clover/Clever Consult law firm, informed the AIU that he had been retained as Lysenko’s Counsel on 18 February 2019. 

The AIU was very critical of Artem Patsev’s role in the Danil Lysenko case…

The AIU was heavily critical of Patsev’s role in the case. In short, it appears to have suspected that Patsev maintained Lysenko’s argument that the documents were genuine because he wasn’t aware that the AIU knew they had been faked. ‘Mr Patsev, although knowing that the story had been fabricated, sought himself to support and corroborate the false story’, argues the AIU. Its argument that he was working to protect the interests of RusAF’s officials rather than Lysenko (see right) was not accepted as proven by the Disciplinary Tribunal.

Patsev refutes any suggestion that he acted improperly. He argues that he became aware of the faked medical documents on 26 February, after reading correspondence between Lysenko and Greene. However he argues that his role was to represent Lysenko and up until his 10 April 2019 meeting with the AIU, when he confessed after being told he faced a ten year ban, Lysenko wished to maintain his argument that the documents were genuine. 

Patsev says that this was because Lysenko felt threatened, but appeared afraid to name who was involved. This is perhaps unsurprising. Patsev has previously acted for RusAF and sat on its Disciplinary Commission in 2017 and 2019. It is conceivable that Lysenko, like the AIU, may have been concerned that Patsev was acting not to protect him, but to protect RusAF officials. 

Revenge?

A Report was produced into doping in the Chuvash Republic that was heavily critical of RUSADA…

Patsev argues he has been set up as an act of revenge for an earlier Report that uncovered doping practices involving youth athletes in the Chuvash Republic. He points to RusAF’s statement in response to the Decisions to sanction its five former officials, which dedicates an entire section to his role in the case, as evidence that it seeks to blame him.

An Independent Working Group (IWG) was commissioned by the Chuvash Republic to investigate allegations of youth doping that RUSADA had uncovered. RUSADA refused to engage with the Report, arguing that the IWG’s composition suggested bias. Patsev headed the IWG.

The timing of the IWG Report is interesting. After RUSADA opened cases against 33 athletes in June, the Report was commissioned on 9 August and published in November 2019. This was a year after RUSADA began helping the AIU investigate the Lysenko case in July 2018, following Ganus’s appointment as Director General in September 2017.

The resulting Report consists of two parts. The first section detailed the doping allegations, and the second part was heavily critical of RUSADA’s approach to investigating the allegations.

Ganus has maintained that it was an attempt to discredit RUSADA’s work as revenge for uncovering youth doping in Chuvashia, and for assisting WADA with its investigations into the Lysenko case. Patsev argues that RUSADA may have been involved in casting his role in the Lysenko case in a bad light, as revenge for allegations about RUSADA’s investigatory techniques in the IWG Report.

Ganus’s predecessor at RUSADA was Anna Antseliovich (Анна Анцелиович). She reportedly represented some of the athletes involved in the Chuvash investigation in taking legal action against Ganus. She was part of RUSADA’s ‘old guard’, having worked there for six years prior to her appointment as Director General. She was also accused of informing an athlete about when a doping test would take place, back in 2014. She is also the new Head of the Sports Law practice at Patsev’s law firm, having been appointed in December 2020.

Blame game

The now infamous facade of the Moscow Laboratory at 10 Yelizavetinskiy Pereulok…

WADA sanctioned RUSADA for failing to procure the authentic Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) from the Moscow Laboratory. WADA never sought to blame Ganus or RUSADA for manipulation of the Moscow LIMS, and argued that RUSADA’s lack of involvement was why wider sanctions applicable to Russia and its politicians were necessary. The full CAS Decision suggests that it considered these sanctions disproportionate.

Yet as previously highlighted, RUSADA underwent an about turn. Ganus blamed State officials for manipulating the Moscow LIMS. Yet RUSADA went to great lengths to defend State interests at CAS, following a change of management. This suggested that somebody else was pulling the puppet strings at RUSADA.

Ganus was removed following an audit commissioned by the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committees (ROC & RPC), which he argues was engineered to facilitate his dismissal. Alongside the Ministry of Sport, the ROC & RPC were Founding Members of RUSADA and sat on its Supervisory Board, which went against Ganus’ wishes in appealing WADA’s sanction to the CAS. This is why WADA is keen for their influence to be removed from RUSADA’s management – whether this has been successful is another question.

Ganus had committed to publishing a full outcome from its investigations in the Chuvash Republic, which involved doping in regional athletics. Ganus was heavily critical of the IWG Report’s conclusions regarding RUSADA’s conduct in a 6 April 2020 letter sent to anti-doping stakeholders, as well as to WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC). Perhaps due to Ganus’s dismissal, RUSADA has never published a full outcome from its investigations into the Chuvash Republic. 

At this point in time, Covid-19 wasn’t even on the horizon. RUSADA was only conditionally reinstated in September 2018, and RusAF was suspended from World Athletics membership (it still is). The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were fast approaching. Russian sporting officials wanted to avoid any other scandals derailing their medal prospects. Chuvashia was a scandal. Lysenko was a medal prospect.

Given what we know regarding the extraordinary steps Russia has taken to deny State doping and manipulate the Moscow LIMS, it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that collusion occurred to cover up what happened in Chuvashia, and to protect Lysenko’s chances of Gold at Tokyo 2020. It also isn’t outside the realms of possibility that Patsev has been set up to take the blame when things went awry. 

Post Pravda

Pravda (Правда, which translates as ‘truth’) was the newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and Izvestia (Известия, which translates as ‘the news’) was a State newspaper. As David Walsh points out inThe Russian Affair’, cynicism about the content of both led to the uniquely Russian idiom that there was no truth in the news and no news in the truth. 

The details in this article and the Decisions outline perfectly why WADA was correct to sanction Russia for RUSADA’s failure to procure the authentic LIMS. It is hard to know who is telling the truth. It is clear that the neither the AIU or the Disciplinary Tribunal believe a word that Patsev says. ‘The Panel gives no credibility at all to anything said by Mr Patsev in his evidence’, reads the Shlyakhtin and Karamyan Decision. However, there were so many basic errors in RusAF’s apparent plan that it seems almost designed to fail.

Once again, it appears that a young athlete will suffer because of the actions of others. If Lysenko is to be believed (the AIU do believe him, whilst Patsev disputes aspects of his testimony), he has been threatened and intimidated in order to further the sporting triumphs of Mother Russia. He is likely to face a ban, despite eventually confessing. Did he have any choice but to go along with the plot? The final Decision in his case ought to be interesting.

RusAF’s internet site lists its partners as Russia’s Ministry of Sport and the ROC. Until very recently, the ROC and RPC sat alongside the Ministry of Sport on RUSADA’s Supervisory Body (they arguably still have a certain degree of influence). When audits are engineered in order to remove officials; medical documentation is forged in order to win medals; investigations are questioned due to bias; and information is manipulated and deleted in order to escape consequences, it isn’t unreasonable to expect sanctions on the country in which this occurred. 

Footnotes

1. Artur Karamyan & Dmitry Shlyakhtin Decision; Alexander Parkin Decision; Elena Orlova Decision; Elena Ikonnikova Decision.
2. World Athletics had permitted Lysenko to compete as an Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) following the suspension of RusAF. Under WADA’s International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI), which is mandatory for anti-doping organisations (ADOs) that have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code, ADOs must establish a Test Distribution Plan (TDP) including a Registered Testing Pool (RTP). Athletes included in the RTP, such as Lysenko, must provide ‘whereabouts’ information for the next three months in advance, indicating where they will be available for one hour in every 24, although locations can later be amended. Under Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, ‘whereabouts failures’ comprise ‘Any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures, as defined in the International Standard for Testing and Investigations, within a twelve-month period by an Athlete in a Registered Testing Pool’ constitutes an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) subject to a two year ban.

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