Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is currently deciding whether it will suspend Russia at 17:00 CET (18:00 GMT) tonight via a teleconference conducted from London. The IAAF expected a “full and comprehensive response” – in the words of IAAF President Sebastian Coe – from the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) by today and both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expect the IAAF to take action.
“The IAAF has informed us they will take the necessary measures”, IOC President Thomas Bach told SportAccord delegates this week. “I am very positive that these measures will go in the right direction. That means to protect clean athletes.” The WADA Independent Commission recommended that the IAAF suspend Russia when it announced its 323-page report on 9 November, which found that the IAAF and ARAF had colluded to cover up Russian doping. “For 2016 [Rio Olympics], our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended”, said its President, Dick Pound.
If the IAAF does decide to suspend Russia, then it is expected that it will require ARAF to fulfil certain conditions before its IAAF membership is restored. The IOC has already asked the IAAF to initiate disciplinary proceedings against all of the people accused of doping in the report with a connection to the Olympic Games.
This would include Mariya Savinova, the Russian Olympic 800m gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, who admitted, in secret video recordings, to using the banned steroid oxandrolone, as well as Ekaterina Poistogova, who took bronze in the same London 2012 event.
Anastasiya Bazdyreva (800m), Tatjana Myazina (800m) and Kristina Ugarova (800m) are also named in the report, competed in the Olympics and are recommended for sanctioning. Allegations were also made against middle-distance runner Anna Alminova, Svetlana Cherkasova (800m) Aleksey Farsonov (1,500m) and Yekaterina Kupina (800m), however they are not expected to face an immediate IAAF ban, as they were not recommended for sanctioning.
However, the report did recommend lifetime bans for Dr. Sergey Nikolaevich Portugalov, Chief of the ARAF Medical Commission; Alexey Melnikov, senior coach and head Russian endurance coach; Vladimir Kazarin, Russian national team 800m coach; Vladimir Mokhnev, Russian endurance coach for 1000m – 3000m; and for Viktor Chegin, Russian race walking coach. All five of these individuals have worked with athletes who completed in the Olympics.
In April 2014, Russian sports agent Andrei Baranov wrote a signed affidavit to the IAAF detailing how Russian sport officials had colluded with IAAF officials to allow Liliya Shobukhova to compete at the London 2012 Olympics, despite a 2011 positive test. Baranov told The Guardian that his affidavit named Melnikov and Valentin Balakhnichev, who resigned as President of the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) in February and voluntarily stepped down as IAAF Treasurer while the IAAF Ethics Commission conducted its investigation.
Baranov, who acted as agent for Shobukhova, explained how she has been assisting the IAAF and WADA with its investigations. In August, WADA ended her sanction early for providing ‘substantial assistance’, after she approached WADA in May 2014.
Grigory Rodchenkov, who resigned as Director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory after the WADA Independent Commission report held him responsible for the destruction of 1,417 athlete samples, has also been recommended for permanent removal from his position. The Commission also recommended that Rodchenkov be put on WADA’s Prohibited Advisor list. WADA has since revoked the accreditation of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.
The Commission also implicated the Lausanne laboratory, which it said had ‘acted contrary to specific instructions’ by destroying 67 Russian samples transferred from the Moscow laboratory that WADA had asked it to retain. ‘The IC is not satisfied with the explanations given for the destruction of the samples transferred from the Moscow laboratory’, reads the report. “We got an explanation from the Lausanne Laboratory but we did not believe the explanation”, said Pound.
The original whistleblowers, Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yulia Stepanova, an 800m runner who was banned for doping, alleged 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. Their allegations, originally aired in Hajo Seppelt’s December documentary, were expanded on in a further August documentary, which also alleged that the IAAF had failed to act on suspicious blood values.
The WADA Independent Commission thanked Seppelt for his work in exposing systemic Russian doping, contrasting with the position of the IAAF, which threatened him with legal action.
As well as missing out on international events while it is suspended, Russia could also be stripped of the right to host the IAAF World Indoor Meetings in Moscow on 14 February; the World Race Walking Championships in Cheboksary, 7-15 May; and the World Junior Championships in Kazan, scheduled for 19-24 July. The Russian Ministry of Sport has said that the recent revelations ‘were not a surprise to us’, however reiterated that it and the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) have put measures in place to remedy the ‘problems in the Russian federation of athletics’. It pointed to changes in the ARAF leadership, a new head coach and rejuvenation of the coaching staff as evidence that it is tackling these problems.
“Athletes dope because they don’t trust the mechanisms that are responsible for anti-doping control”, said Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko in an interview with Ruptly TV. “They don’t believe in their independence, because they see things addressed in the same way that Russia is now being treated…We will respect any commissions that are appointed to look into this and we will provide whatever information is needed, but fighting the use of doping is in the hands of specific international organisations – it is up to them.”
On 17 November, the WADA Executive Committee will meet in Colorado Springs, followed by a meeting of the WADA Foundation Board on 18 November. The Foundation Board meeting will consider the recommendations of the WADA Independent Commission report that apply to WADA. A press conference will follow the meeting, however a WADA spokesperson confirmed that video or teleconference facilities will not be available.
On 2 December, the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media & Sport (CMS) Select Committee will question Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), as part of its ongoing inquiry into blood doping in athletics. A IAAF Ethics Committee hearing will also take place from 16-18 December in London, where charges against Papa Massata Diack, Balakhnichev, Melnikov and Dollé for ‘various alleged breaches of the IAAF Code of Ethics’ will be heard. An Ethics Commission investigation is also ongoing in respect of an additional person.
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