Features 14th December 2018

Austrian Biathlon investigation highlights involvement of Russian State in doping

Five Russian biathletes and five coaches have received notification from Austrian State authorities that they are being investigated for doping, which is a criminal offence in the country. The charges relate to the 2017 International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Championships in the Austrian town of Hochfilzen, where the 2018 IBU World Cup is currently taking place. Statements from the IBU and the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) confirmed that charges had been issued to ten people at the Russian team’s Hochfilzen accommodation.

It is understood that the charges stem from an April raid of the IBU headquarters, due to allegations against IBU officials, as well as Russian biathletes and officials. That raid led to the resignation of IBU President Anders Besseberg and Secretary General Nicole Resch, who are still under investigation by police due to allegations that doping cases were covered up in return for bribes. The background to the Austrian investigation also highlights connections between those involved and Russian State doping.

Those under investigation

The Russian athletes and officials concerned have been named by Dmitry Guberniev, a Match TV journalist, through his Instagram page (see below). Guberniev alleges that the following athletes and officials have been charged:

• Alexandre Kasporovich (former national team coach);
• Artern Kryntsilov (medical official);
• Evgeny Shutov (medical official);
• Dmitry Topychkanov (medical official);
• Evgeny Shutov (medical official);
• Alexey Volkov (athlete);
• Irina Starykh (athlete);
• Anton Shipulin (athlete);
• Evgeny Garanichev (athlete); and
• Alexander Loginov (athlete).

View this post on Instagram

Внимание !!!! Несколько часов назад в расположение сборной России по биатлону нагрянула австрийская полиция !!! Перед Вами список спортсменов , тренеров , врачей и массажистов , кому предъявлены обвинения в нарушении антидопинговых правил во время чемпионата мира в Хохфильцене в 17-м году !!!!! В Австрии это уголовное преступление !!!! Все , кто указан в этом списке , обязаны дать свои объяснения полиции !!!!! Интересно , почему именно сейчас и спустя почти два года предъявлены эти обвинения ???? За последние несколько лет наша команда регулярно проходила и проходит допинг – тесты и вопросов нет !!!! А теперь они есть у австрийской полиции !!!! Все подробности завтра на @matchtv_channel !!!! Женская спринтерская гонка стартует в 16.15 мск !!!!

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Shuplin was a member of the Russian relay team that took gold at both the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and at the 2017 IBU World Championships. Evgeny Garanichev took bronze in the individual Sochi 2014 biathlon. Alexander Loginov served a two year ban after reanalysis of his Sochi 2014 sample tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO), and on his return helped the Russian mixed relay team to bronze at the 2017 IBU World Championships. 

In July 2014, Irina Starykh was sanctioned (click here to download decision) with a two year ban from 23 December 2013, when she returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO). However, a second sample taken on 2 January 2014 later tested positive for the same substance and the IBU imposed an additional one year ban from 23 December 2015, when her ban was due to end (click here to download decision). As Starykh had already been suspended due to the December 2013 AAF, the IBU considered the January 2014 AAF constituted a single anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

Both Loginov and Starykh have recently won IBU Cup events. Starykh took three golds and a bronze at the 2017 European Championships; and Loginov took a gold at the 2018 European Championships. At present, there is no information about whether police are investigating historic doping offences, or new allegations.

Dr. Rodchenkov’s affidavit

In November 2017, an affidavit (PDF below) provided by former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, to the Schmid Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) alleged that Mikhail Prokhorov, former RBU President, had bribed Starykh to keep quiet about being instructed to inject EPO by Stanislav (Stastik) Dmitriev. Dr. Rodchenkov also alleged that half of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic biathlon team was under the control of Dmitriev, a ‘well-known’ supplier of prohibited substances, whom he named as the primary source of EPO for the Russian Winter Olympic team.

Prokhorov was appointed as President of the RBU in 2008, but was replaced by Alexander Kravtsov in May 2014, after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Kravtsov is head of the Centre of Sports Preparation for the National Teams of Russia (CSP). In the above affidavit, Dr. Rodchenkov mentions the CSP as being involved in the management of Russia’s State doping programme. He also mentions Kravtsov as initiating discussions about half of the biathlon team being under the control of Dmitriev. 

Dr. Rodchenkov also mentions that Kravtsov was chief of Russia’s Olympic delegation at Sochi 2014, and told him about the positive tests of Starykh and Ekaterina Iourieva for rEPO ahead of the Games (click here to download decision). Following the ‘fury’ of Russia’s then Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko, at the ‘careless’ nature of the RBU, Dr. Rodchenkov alleges that Prokhorov offered Starykh the bribe to keep quiet

Screenshot of Russia’s Ministry of Sport’s internet site, showing Kravtsov as Head of the CSP…

Despite the allegations against Kravtsov, he remains as head of the CSP today. This page of subordinate organisations to the Ministry of Sport lists Kratsov as head of the CSP, and states it was last updated on 15 November this year (English translation on right). As an interesting aside, the Federal Training Centre for Sports Reserve (FCPSR), which oversees the CSP, appears to have removed all news items between 22 April 2014 and 27 June 2016 from its internet site (see below).

Victor Maygurov was appointed as Vice President of the RBU by Kravtsov, and has also been IBU Vice President since 5 September 2014. In August 2011, it was reported that Maygurov was dismissed from a post as Director of the Yugra Department of Physical Culture and Sports that he had held since 2009. It is understood that a Diploma of Higher Education he had relied upon in order to secure the post had been faked, and he was required to return his salary.

The FCPSR has removed all news items from between April 2014 & the end of June 2016…

Prokhorov is the owner of National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Brooklyn Nets. He is understood to be one of the financial backers behind a defamation lawsuit launched by three retired Russian biathletes – Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina – in February this year. It is understood that each of the three athletes is seeking US$10 million in damages after being stripped of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic relay gold medals by the IOC as a result of information provided by Dr. Rodchenkov.

It is understood that the three athletes have appealed against their bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but a hearing date has yet to be set. Lawyers acting for Dr. Rodchenkov are understood to have asked the libel lawsuit to be stayed pending the outcome of the CAS appeals.

What we know

As mentioned, details of the Austrian police investigation are not known at this stage, but they are likely to focus on offences committed on Austrian soil. The IBU statement confirms that the ten are being investigated for ‘serious fraud’ connected to doping at the 2017 IBU World Championships, and the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure requires the ten to be informed that such investigations are taking place.

However, when the background that allowed Austrian police to launch such an investigation is considered, an insight into Russian State involvement in biathlon doping emerges. We know that Kravtsov, a person alleged to be actively involved in covering up the positive tests of Russian athletes, was also in charge of preparing Russian athletes for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics through his continued role as head of the CSP. He also took over from Prokhorov, who allegedly offered a bribe to a Russian athlete to keep quiet about State doping whilst President of the RBU.

Prokhorov is also a former CEO of Norilsk Nickel, a company that is understood to provide 2% of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is also one of the world’s worst polluters. In 1995, Prokhorov began his transformation of the former State owned conglomerate into one of Russia’s most profitable companies. He sold his stake in 2008, which is understood to have made him one of the richest men in Russia. In 2011, he resigned his industrial positions to enter politics, however faced accusations that the party he was to head was set up by the Kremlin in order to provide the illusion of credible opposition.

He also spearheaded Norilsk Nikel’s investment in Russian sport, which continues today. The company, now headed by Prokhorov’s former ally Vladimir Ponatin, recently agreed a four year sponsorship deal with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. The company is a partner of Russia’s Football Union (FUR) and national football team, whose President is Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s former Minister of Sport during the period that Dr. Rodchenkov’s affidavit covers. Like Kravtsov, Mutko remains in power, having been promoted to a position as Deputy Prime Minister.

Norilsk Nikel is also a partner of the XXIX World Winter Universiade, which takes place in Krasnoyarsk in March 2019; and agreed a partnership with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in May 2016. This followed its sponsorship of the Russian team at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The company also owns CSKA basketball club and the Norilsk Nickel Futsal club.

State involvement

It is understood that investigations by Austrian police stem from some of the links outlined above. Russia has consistently refused to acknowledge that the State was involved in Russian doping in any way, yet the above shows that people allegedly involved in covering up Russian doping are still working in Russian sport today. It also illustrates loose connections between those involved in Russia’s doping past and those involved in Russian sport today.

In September this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) compromised by allowing the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to be reinstated without meeting its previous requirement for Russian authorities to acknowledge that the State was involved. Sir Craig Reedie, WADA’s President, has consistently claimed that such a decision was best for clean sport. Investigations by Austrian police may yet prove him wrong.

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