4 December 2014

German TV documentary alleges systematic Russian doping

A TV documentary produced by investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt (pictured) for ARD1’s Das Erste programme has alleged systematic doping in Russian sport. The documentary, which aired yesterday evening, claimed that Russia’s national sporting associations colluded in allowing athletes to dope and are complicit in covering up positive doping tests.

The programme claimed that Russian officials accepted payments from athletes for illegal substances and covered up positive tests. It features former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yulia Stepanova, an 800m runner who was banned for doping, who allege that Russian athletics officials supplied banned substances and colluded with doping officials to cover up positive tests in exchange for 5% of an athlete’s earnings.

Former discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina, currently serving a ten-year ban for doping, claims that “the majority” of athletes selected to represent Russia use banned substances. Liliya Shobukhova, a 2010 London Marathon winner who is currently serving a two-year ban for irregularities detected in her Athlete Biological Passport, admits paying €450,000 to her coach to buy a place on the Russian team for the London 2012 Olympics, and to turn a blind eye to a 2011 positive test.

The documentary reported that when Shobukhova was banned in April this year, her coach received a €300,000 refund, linked to All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) President Valentin Balakhnichev, who is also Treasurer of the IAAF. London 2012 Olympic 800 metres gold medal winner Mariya Savinova is seen in mobile phone footage taking the banned substance Oxandrolon. Her face is covered, but ARD says they possess the unedited version of the footage.

RUSADA has yet to issue a statement, however in the documentary its Executive Director, Nikita Kamaev, said: “All athletes who make such claims have infringed doping regulations in the past. Such people then contact journalists and tell stories. For professionals, such stories are only laughable.” ARAF has yet to issue a statement, however President Valentin Balakhnichev told Reuters that the claims were “a pack of lies”.

In a statement issued yesterday, the World Anti-Doping Agency said that it would ‘ensure that all matters raised are fully investigated. WADA has, in fact, already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international federation, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations. Insofar as the particular allegations against Russian authorities and others are concerned, these will be carefully scrutinised and if any action is warranted, WADA will take any necessary and appropriate steps under the Code.’

The IAAF has yet to issue a formal statement, however it is understood that its Ethics Commission has opened an investigation. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to issue a statement, however a spokesperson told the Associated Press: “These are serious allegations. I understand an investigation is already under way by the IAAF ethics commission and we await the full findings. Should there be anything affecting the International Olympic Committee and our code of ethics, we will not hesitate take any and all action necessary.”

ARD’s documentary, the full title of which is ‘Geheimsache Doping – Wie Russland seine Sieger machete’, is available until 10 December, here. Independent journalist Hajo Seppelt also produced a documentary in 2012 exposing apparent doping in Kenyan athletics, which is still being investigated today.

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