SII Focus 30th November 2019

Moscow LIMS manipulation: give them enough rope…

Anti-doping is inherently driven by data and evidence. It has to be in order to avoid false positives, which unfortunately sometimes occur (examples here and here). Russia has consistently argued that suggestions that the State was involved in systemic manipulation of the doping control system is one of these false positives.

The WADA IP Report found that Mutko ordered the covering up of a footballer’s positive test…

Russia has never acknowledged State involvement in manipulation of the doping control system, despite the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) assertions to the contrary. This is despite evidence that senior politicians, such as Vitaly Mutko, were involved in manipulating the doping control system in Russia.

To admit State involvement would implicate senior politicians such as Mutko, who is now a Deputy Prime Minister. A WADA Compliance Review Committee (CRC) Report on the conclusions of an Intelligence & Investigations (I&I) team investigation was announced this week. This Report has made denying State involvement much, much harder.

89 page Report

In July this year, the I&I team began analysing inconsistencies between the database retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January and one given to it by a whistleblower in November 2017. The findings, including the CRC’s analysis of them, run to 89 pages. They are devastating, and suggest that manipulation of the doping control process in Russia continued into this year.

Russian authorities have acknowledged that manipulations to the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) occurred up until 16 January 2019, the day before it was retrieved by WADA. Russia’s Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, has pledged to investigate the recent manipulations. Investigators found that one of the people that carried out such manipulations was Evgeny Mochalov, IT Systems Administrator for the Moscow Laboratory and husband of its current Director, Elena Mochalova.

But acceptance that manipulation of the Moscow LIMS occurred doesn’t constitute acceptance of State involvement. Just as a letter accepting an International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision doesn’t constitute acceptance of State involvement in systemic doping. But the use of the manipulations in evidence presented by the Russian authorities to WADA shows that the Russian State was aware of it.

Dr. Rodchenkov has been forced to change his appearance due to fears for his safety…

Russian authorities attempted to argue that former Laboratory Director, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov; his assistant Dr. Timofey Sobolevsky; and an IT administrator for the Moscow Laboratory, Oleg Migachev, had concocted a conspiracy to extort athletes in return for the covering up of positive tests. They also attempted to argue that the manipulations detected by the I&I team were due to the Moscow LIMS malfunctioning, and due to human error.

On 27 April 2019, Kolobkov apparently advised WADA that the Russian authorities had completed a Technical Report. WADA asked Kolobkov to supply the Russian Technical Report four times over the next six months, before it was finally provided on 8 October.

Incredibly, WADA’s investigators found that forged data and both fabricated and modified forum messages were inserted into the Moscow LIMS data in order to implicate the trio. The Report explains how the manipulated LIMS database, deleted files and forged data were doctored in order to hide manipulations, including the backdating of forged changes in order to make it appear that they had been carried out by Dr. Rodchenkov in 2015. New data provided by the Russian authorities on 23 October 2019 was also found to be unreliable due to similar manipulations. 

Sample codes from WADA’s own Evidentiary Disclosure Package (EDP) website, which accompanied Part 2 of the McLaren Report, were used to delete ‘presumptive’ adverse analytical findings (AAFs) from the Moscow LIMS. A ‘presumptive’ AAF is defined as ‘the status of a Sample test result from the Initial Testing Procedure which represents a suspicious finding, but for which a Confirmation Procedure to render a conclusive test result has not yet been performed’, in WADA’s International Standard for Laboratories (ISL). 

However, WADA’s jurisdiction is over anti-doping organisations (ADOs). The CRC Report recognises that the manipulation which occurred was not the fault of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). In a further twist, it recommends that although RUSADA be declared non-compliant, it is allowed to carry on anti-doping work in Russia.

Role of the SKR/Sledcom

The Report found that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) took three hard drives out of the Moscow Laboratory on 21 July 2016. ‘Between 21 July and 25 July 2016, a vast number of files, including Raw Data files, were deleted from 12 instrument computers and the Imaged Primary Disk’, reads the I&I team’s evidence.

These three hard drives were copied during WADA’s visit to the Moscow Laboratory on 10 January. The Russian authorities attempted to claim that all three discs were constantly in use by the LIMS server. The I&I team said that this ‘does not explain the fact that all activities on Disk ICR-1 have creation timestamps on a single day (6 July 2016), all activities on Disk ICR-2 have creation timestamps on a single day (5 July 2016), and all activities on Disk ICR-3 have creation timestamps on a single day (14 August 2015)’.

The deletions and modification of the discs are significant because the SKR had sole access to the samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory for over three years, sealing them off after launching a criminal investigation in June 2016. It is also significant because Russian authorities used the SKR investigation as an excuse for not providing WADA with a copy of the LIMS data.

In November 2017, the SKR argued that the Moscow LIMS database provided to WADA by a whistleblower was unreliable, as it had confiscated the authentic version as part of its criminal investigation. The SKR’s criminal investigation has never been completed, and it has failed to respond to repeat questions from The Sports Integrity Initiative requesting an end date.

The SKR answers directly to Vladimir Putin…

The Russian authorities put the same argument presented by the SKR about the reliability of the November 2017 database to WADA. But WADA’s evidence suggests that it was the SKR doing the tinkering, not Dr. Rodchenkov and his two accomplices. And the SKR answers directly to Russia’s Head of State, President Vladimir Putin.

Evgeny Kudryavstev

WADA’s I&I team also found that manipulations took place in order to protect Evgeny Kudryavstev, former Head of the Sample Reception and Aliquoting Department at the Moscow Laboratory. Twenty five messages were deleted from the Moscow LIMS message forum showing that Kudryavstev was involved in sample swapping and record falsification immediately prior to WADA’s removal of 4,144 samples from the Laboratory on 17 December 2014. 

This is significant is because Kudryavstev has disputed Dr. Rodchenkov’s claims that he was involved in the sample swapping process. Kudryavstev is understood to be a key witness at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in several cases where Russian athletes contest Dr. Rodchenkov’s evidence regarding sample swapping at Sochi 2014.

Zeroing Commands and backdating

A ‘Zeroing Command’ was used to render any previously deleted data stored in the LIMS database and related systems unrecoverable. ‘The intent was to hide the fact that these changes occurred not on 12 November 2015  but rather in December 2018’, reads the CRC’s summary of the I&I team’s work. ‘It almost worked; advanced digital forensic analysis was required to uncover the truth’. 

Names and timestamps of deleted backup files from 2014, 2015 and 2016 were recovered. ‘Over 1,250 of the backup files created in 2014 and 2015 have a deletion timestamp of 29 June 2016, and over 450 backup files created in 2016 have a deletion timestamp of 17 December 2018’, reads the Report. 

Shockingly, this was done on 16 January 2019 by the Russian authorities, as part of a back up of the contents of a server to a new server. This was a process to which WADA agreed during the middle of extracting the LIMS data during its second visit to Moscow, after Russia missed a 31 December 2018 deadline to provide the Laboratory data and Moscow LIMS to WADA.

On the day WADA first arrived in Moscow, 17 December 2018, IT System Administrator Oleg Mochalov backdated the Moscow LIMS to 12 November 2015. This date was shortly after Dr. Rodchenkov resigned as Director of the Moscow Laboratory. The Russian authorities attempted to argue that Mochalov had moved these files onto his personal computer to free up space on the primary disk. However, the I&I team argued that this explanation was not plausible, because the primary disk had 93% of space available.

A mistake discovered was that when reversing a backdating command on 8 January 2019, Mochalov used the US date format (01/08/2019). This resulted in the entire system being dated as 1 August 2019, i.e. into the future, until it reset itself shortly to 8 January 2019 afterwards. The I&I team also discovered that files it expected to be created by a daily backup of the Moscow LIMS did not exist on the system. 

The whole package, including the fabricated and modified messages, were used in a booklet and short film presented by the Russian authorities to WADA on 14 November 2019. This was used to support the assertion that Dr. Rodchenkov, Dr. Timofey Sobolevsky and Migachev had concocted a conspiracy to extort athletes in return for the covering up of positive tests.  

Control of the Moscow Laboratory

The very fact that the deletions performed by Mochalov supported the  assertion of the Russian authorities suggests that they directed his actions. Along with the involvement of the SKR, a State body, this makes State involvement in manipulation of the Moscow LIMS very difficult to deny. It also shows that despite WADA’s best efforts under its World Anti-Doping Code and related International Standards, it would appear that the Russian State continues to interfere with the Moscow Laboratory. 

The Moscow Laboratory…

In May, The Sports Integrity Initiative revealed how the Laboratory is in the same building and had many of the same staff that were in place when State manipulation of the doping control process occurred. Russia’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP) highlights that it is financed by the ‘Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education’. So although the Laboratory is operated through Moscow State University (MSU), it is indirectly financed by the State. 

The current Director of the Laboratory, whose husband was involved in manipulating the Moscow LIMS, worked alongside Dr. Rodchenkov. Elena Mochalova (Елена Мочалова) and other Laboratory employees produced a research paper on anti-doping at Sochi 2014, where Russian State manipulation of the doping control system arguably reached its zenith. 

In 2015, WADA’s Independent Commission Report found evidence that the Ministry of Sport controlled the Moscow Laboratory…

Although the RUSADA was not fully reinstated until 20 September last year, WADA permitted the Moscow Laboratory to resume all testing (blood and urine) under the supervision of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) at its 18 May 2017 Foundation Board meeting. UKAD ended its involvement in Russia on 20 September 2018, due to the reinstatement of RUSADA. The WADA I&I Report shows that manipulation of the LIMS data began shortly after UKAD’s departure from Russia.

This calls into question WADA’s controversial decision to reinstate RUSADA, despite the Russian authorities not meeting its original or modified conditions. If WADA had maintained RUSADA’s suspension, UKAD would have remained in a supervisory role at the Laboratory, making such interference more difficult. However, if WADA had maintained RUSADA’s suspension, it may never have procured the samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory, nor the Moscow LIMS data.

Stunning deception

The level of detail in the I&I team’s report to WADA’s CRC is truly astounding. The Report does an excellent job of explaining what it discovered in layman’s terms. It is arguably WADA’s best investigatory work to date. It is impossible to go through all the findings – many of which are very technical in nature – in detail, however the main ones are outlined below.

The findings mean that a number of doping cases couldn’t be followed up. As manipulations were going on until November this year, it also means that in order to prove that they are ‘clean’, Russian athletes may have to demonstrate that they were not touched by such manipulations up until 2019, as opposed to up until 2015.

Detail of the LIMS Forum modifications…

‘The fabricated, modified and deleted Forum Messages are a stunning deception’, reads the I&I team’s report to the CRC. ‘They are the figurative “smoking gun”’. This is because in a 26 August 2019 letter to Sir Craig Reedie, President of WADA, Kolobkov said that Russian authorities had discovered ‘correspondence’ between Drs. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky including topics such as ‘money transfer’ and ‘bonuses’ in connection with ‘dirty samples’. The messages were inserted into the LIMS database forum between 28 November 2018 and 10 January 2019, before WADA was allowed to copy it. 

Three other messages were also modified in order to incriminate the two scientists. The first initially read ‘ok’, but was modified to read: ‘We are definitely not going to put 2780034, 2780424 and 2780489 out there!! They are far from being just some homeless people … Treat all the files using the scheme, and you can take your Bonus home’. The second was initially from Kudryavstev to Dr. Sobolevsky and read: ‘Tim, we will soon be giving it’. It was modified to appear to be a message from Dr. Sobolevsky to Dr. Rodchenkov, reading: ‘I propose we enlighten Kudryavtsev about our scheme involving the samples. We need to tell him straight and clearly, that we are creating the appearance of dirty samples, and the athletes and their trainers are bringing us bonuses. Otherwise he will suspect something dodgy is going on and will be unlikely to release any repeats without requests’.

The Moscow LIMS contained 11,227 forum messages from 25 March 2013 until 12 January 2019. Ten messages not present in the retrieved 2019 LIMS are not present in the LIMS given to WADA by a whistleblower in November 2017; and 25 forum messages that appear in the 2017 LIMS are not present in the 2019 LIMS. WADA’s I&I team literally found needles in a haystack. 

The I&I team found that a copy of the LIMS forum message table, containing the fabricated and modified messages but missing the deleted messages, was restored onto the LIMS database between 5 and 10 January 2019. This was shortly after Russia missed a deadline to provide the Laboratory data and Moscow LIMS to WADA. The incomplete manipulation of the Moscow LIMS perhaps explains why this deadline was missed.

Within the LIMS database supplied to WADA in 2017, 245 samples identified as a ‘presumptive’ AAF, including some that were followed up with confirmation procedures (CPs), did not have ‘presumptive’ AAFs or CPs recorded against them in the 2019 LIMS database. Three hundred and twenty eight samples appear with findings in both copies of the LIMS database, but the I&I team found that the content varies.

WADA’s I&I team identified 578 samples in the LIMS database, collected from 298 athletes, that they considered suspicious for doping. Deletions and alterations have ‘materially prejudiced’ the ability to pursue cases against 145 of the 298 athletes. Many of these concern athletics. 

WADA’s EDP website referred to 140 samples from track and field athletes who were ‘protected’ from returning an AAF which had indications as ‘presumptive’ AAFs. The CRC said that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics (previously the International Association of Athletics Federations) had identified 83 of those that were listed in the database supplied to WADA in November 2017, but not in the database retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January 2019. 

‘In particular, of the approximately 60 track & field samples recorded in the EDPs as having a Presumptive AAF for an anabolic steroid, 52 have Presumptive AAFs in the 2015 LIMS database but not in the 2019 LIMS database’, reads the Report. In addition, there are differences between the databases which indicate that Russian authorities have attempted to scrub out Dr. Rodchenkov’s claims that samples were tested to see how long it took for steroids to ‘wash out’ of their systems. 

‘The 2015 LIMS database includes records of series of samples from athletes containing Presumptive AAFs (at decreasing concentrations) for steroids’, reads the Report. ‘However, not all of those “wash out” samples were referred to in the EDPs. In the case of a series of “wash out” samples from 2012, only the 38 Presumptive Findings that were referred to in the EDPs are missing from the 2019 LIMS database; while the 17 Presumptive AAFs that were not referred to in the EDPs do appear in the 2019 LIMS database. This indicates that the sample codes in the EDPs might have been used as a reference point to delete Presumptive AAFs from the 2019 LIMS database.’

In other words, the manipulators used WADA’s own evidence against them. The AIU also advised that there are 154 ‘relevant’ PDF files and five Raw Data files missing from the data passed to the AIU.

In another case, manipulations obstructed an investigation into two biathlon athletes. The Moscow LIMS database provided to WADA in November 2017 included details of two ‘presumptive’ AAFs by a male and female biathlete. The database retrieved in January 2019 lists both samples, but contains no mention of ‘presumptive’ AAFs for either athlete.

Both databases record that PDF files were generated to report the results of analysis of the two samples for substances on WADA’s Prohibited List. The PDF files showing the results for other substances are present, but PDF files reporting analysis of the samples for anabolic steroids and selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) are missing. This is significant because the LIMS database provided to WADA in November 2017 shows ‘presumptive’ AAFs for a metabolite of oxandrolone (steroid) and ostarine (SARM).

‘In addition, on 21 July 2016 an unidentified user using the name “Quantum” deleted from the relevant instrument computer folders containing the Raw Data Files evidencing the confirmation of the presence of oxandrolone and ostarine (respectively) in those samples’, reads the Report. ‘On or about 27 August 2018, the IBU [International Biathlon Union] notified the Russian female biathlete that it was investigating her sample for a possible ADRV. On 25 September 2018, an unidentified user using the name ‘Quantum’ conducted a search in the 2019 LIMS database for the female biathlete’s sample.’ 

WADA’s I&I team were able to recover the raw data file evidencing the missing ‘presumptive’ AAFs, as well as the missing PDF files (using a provers called ‘carving’). ‘Those two PDF files contain traces of selective alteration in order to make the analytical results appear negative’, reads the Report. This shows that manipulation of the doping control process was actively continuing in August 2018.

A lawsuit launched by three Russian biathletes against Dr. Rodchenkov in February 2018 is understood to be backed by Mikhail Prokhorov, who was President of the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) from 2008 to May 2014. In an Affidavit provided to the IOC, Dr. Rodchenkov alleges that Prokhorov bribed biathlete Irina Starykh to keep quiet about being instructed to inject erythropoietin (EPO) by Stanislav (Statik) Dmitriev. He 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.

There is no suggestion that the lawsuit and the cases unearthed by the I&I team are connected, other than they both involve biathlon. But it is important to get your ducks in a row. Manipulators apparently went to extraordinary lengths to protect two biathlon athletes, and the lawsuit understood to be backed by Prokhorov pursues the same line that Dr. Rodchenkov falsified information. 

After Russia had missed WADA’s initial deadline to supply the samples and the Moscow LIMS data, 20,000 files were deleted from instrument computers, but also from the Moscow LIMS server between 1 and 9 January. WADA’s second team arrived to extract the LIMS database on 10 January. Seventy nine percent of these files relate to the 2008/17 period. 

The I&I team also discovered that three samples were reported as ‘negative’ by the Moscow Laboratory between 6 and 9 January, where its evidence showed the LIMS data has been manipulated. This would appear to suggest that manipulation of the doping control process continued into January this year.

‘In addition, the Independent Experts recovered deleted scripts that included commands to export files, then re-import them while the system was back-dated, the effect of which was to back-date all the tables in the associated database to make it appear the data updates had occurred on earlier dates’, reads the Report. ‘The Russian authorities have offered no explanation for this’. 

The deleted files included 11,720 ‘SLD’ sequence files that recorded mass spectrometry runs used to analyse doping samples; 337 Raw Data files; and 531 PDF files. Of the 503 PDF files created between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2015, 133 related to the analysis of doping samples, of which 121 reported ‘presumptive’ AAFs for anabolic steroids.

Give them enough rope…

…And they’ll hang themselves, so the saying goes. On 20 September 2018, WADA took a major gamble. The Russian authorities had not met its initial or amended conditions for RUSADA to be reinstated, yet WADA reinstated RUSADA, to much criticism. The gamble involved a guess that either the samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory or the Moscow LIMS data had been manipulated (or both) during the three years they were under the protection of the SKR. 

We now know that at least one of these assertions is accurate. Detailed work by both the I&I team and the CRC has uncovered manipulation of the LIMS. To take such a gamble, one has to be confident in the technical ability to detect manipulation, and WADA’s I&I team deserves recognition for an excellent investigation.

WADA has consistently argued that despite concerns expressed by athletes and national anti-doping organisations (NADOs), its 20 September 2018 decision to reinstate RUSADA was the correct one to take. It argued that its need to get hold of the samples stored at the Moscow Laboratory, as well as the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) eclipsed other concerns.

There is merit in the argument that had it not reinstated RUSADA, it may never have got hold of the samples or the Moscow LIMS. However, there is merit in the counter argument that by reinstating RUSADA, WADA gave the green light for State interference at the Moscow Laboratory to resume, and for manipulation to continue. WADA also has questions to answer as to why Elena Mochalova was allowed to become Director of the Moscow Laboratory, despite having worked alongside Dr. Rodchenkov during the period when the doping control system was manipulated. 

As WADA admitted in private, if not in public, the Russian State was never going to admit to involvement in manipulation of the doping control system. In getting access to the Moscow LIMS and discovering it had been manipulated, WADA has managed to get the Russian authorities to acknowledge that manipulation has taken place. This is a forward step, and will make it difficult to deny State involvement, which Russia has never accepted.

The Russian authorities have accepted:

• That Evgeny Mochalov, System Administrator for the Moscow Laboratory and husband of its current Director, intentionally made alterations to the LIMS;
• Russian authorities admitted that during the data copying process that occurred in January 2019, Mochalov had backdated the system and overwritten data with zeroes. It did not mention this until confronted with evidence in October 2019. 

Given this victory, it is puzzling that historical negationism continues. ‘On 13 September 2018, Minister Kolobkov publicly acknowledged that “a number of individuals within the [Russian] Ministry of Sport (Ministry) and its subordinate entities, such as [the] Moscow and Sochi Laboratories” were involved in the manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia’, reads page 16 of the I&I team’s report (page 43 of the full CRC Report). However, he didn’t do this.

WADA decided that a letter from Kolobkov stating that: ‘The Russian Federation fully accepted the decision of the IOC Executive Board of December 5, 2017 that was made based on the findings of the Schmid Report’ amounted to ‘acceptance of all of the findings of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Schmid Report (which itself endorsed the core findings of the WADA-commissioned McLaren Investigation reports), including that “a number of individuals within the Ministry of Sport and its subordinated entities” were involved in the manipulations of the anti-doping system in Russia’.

Taken at face value, Kolobkov’s statement only accepts the IOC decision of 5 December 2017, which was to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and to allow certain athletes to compete in PyeongChang 2018 under the Olympic flag. Kolobkov didn’t acknowledge Russia’s acceptance of the Schmid Report, only that Russia accepts the IOC’s decision to suspend the ROC based on the findings of the Report. 

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the CRC, has admitted that this is an accurate interpretation. ‘The bottom line is that with Richard McLaren having responded to the Schmid Report and the IOC Decision based on it by saying “I congratulate the IOC in its decision. It confirms my findings in the investigation that I conducted for WADA,” there was a strong sentiment that the Russian acknowledgement of the IOC decision based on the Schmid Report was enough, and we could not hold out for more’, he wrote in response to questions from The Sports Integrity Initiative.

The compromise agreed by WADA was underlined by the publication of audio recordings from the 20 September 2018 Seychelles meeting. At 1:27:16 in Part 2 of the audio recording, Taylor admits that Kolobkov’s 13 September letter is “the closet and the clearest [to] full acceptance, without conditionality, of the findings of the Schmid Report”. Such comments are not detailed in the meeting’s published minutes. 

WADA has attempted to hide this compromise. Perhaps it is now time to celebrate it.

But WADA is also guilty of a certain amount of secrecy. The 26 August letter from Kolobkov to Reedie alleging ‘correspondence’ between Drs. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky suggesting a conspiracy was not amongst six published by WADA ‘in the interests of full transparency’. We now know there were at leas eight letters between WADA and the Russian authorities. Were there more?

The I&I team investigation and the CRC Report reveal that affidavits from Dr. Rodchenkov and WADA Senior Investigator Aaron Walker were sent to ‘over 40’ international federations on 14 December 2017. Quotes from Dr. Rodchenkov’s affidavit stated in the Report reveal that his is not the same 52 page affidavit provided to the IOC’s Schmid Commission in November 2017.

Neither affidavit has been made public. Why? This selective publication of information suggests that some of the investigation remains private – perhaps for good reason.

Detail from the Independent Person Report produced by Richard McLaren…

Curiously, the Report neglects to mention that WADA warned Dr. Rodchenkov about a ‘surprise’ inspection of the Moscow Laboratory through a 7 December 2014 later, leading to the destruction of 8,000 samples held in Moscow. This finding was mentioned in the Independent Person Report produced for WADA by Richard McLaren.

RUSADA to stay operational

In the Report, the CRC recommends that RUSADA be recognised as non-compliant under its International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories (ISCCS) for a four year period. However, crucially, RUSADA will be permitted to continue all anti-doping activities during that four year period. 

The Report recognises that the manipulations may not have been RUSADA’s fault. However it argues that it placed the requirement to procure an authentic copy of the Moscow LIMS on RUSADA, and it failed to comply with that requirement.

‘The CRC does not recommend any special monitoring or supervision or takeover of RUSADA’s anti-doping activities in the Four Year Period’, it reads. ‘Instead, provided that WADA management remains satisfied that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations […] RUSADA may continue to undertake all of its anti- doping activities during the Four Year Period, including education, testing, and results management, all in strict accordance with the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code and supporting International Standards.’

One of the problems with RUSADA’s initial suspension was that it created a Catch 22 situation. Although WADA was punishing Russia, it left an anti-doping hole in one of the biggest sporting countries in the world. Under Article 11.1.1.3 and 11.1.1.4 of the ISCCS, WADA can implement special monitoring of a signatory’s anti-doping activities until the signatory is in a position to implement those activities without such monitoring. As such, WADA is now in a position to punish Russia, whilst ensuring that anti-doping work continues in the country.

Its recommended punishments during the four year period include:

• Russian government officials not permitted to sit on boards of Code signatories;
• Russian government officials not permitted to attend Olympic, Paralympic or Youth Olympic events, any event organised by a Major Event Organisation, or any World Championships organised by a Code signatory;
• Russia may not host or bid for any of the above events;
• Hosting rights awarded to Russia for any of the above events taking place in Russia during the four year period to be reassigned (unless impossible to do so;
• Russia not permitted to bid to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games;
• Russian athletes only able to participate in the above events when they can demonstrate they are not implicated by any of Russia’s subversion of the doping control process and/or Moscow LIMS manipulation;
• RUSADA to pay a fine equating 10% of its 2019 income or US$100,000 (whichever is lower).

At the World Conference on Doping in Sport, RUSADA’s concern was over the steps it might have to take in order to be reinstated. WADA’s CRC recommends that RUSADA:

• Pay all of the costs from January 2019 regarding investigations into the authenticity of the Moscow data;
• Under supervision, conduct investigations into all of the impacted cases;
• Provide any support in determining whether athletes featured in the Moscow LIMS supplied to WADA in 2017 have a case to answer (e.g. doping control forms; analysis results etc.);
• Where requested by WADA, conduct results management regarding the ADRVs identified by targeted reanalysis of samples obtained by WADA from the Moscow Laboratory in January 2019.

WADA’s CRC confirmed that although its ISCCS specifies that in instances of non-compliance, the first reinstatement condition should be that the non-compliance is corrected. However in this case, it outlines that this is impossible, since some of the missing Moscow data appears be irrecoverable. 

Many have called for harsh punishment. The IOC has called for ‘the toughest sanctions’, whilst apparently welcoming the opportunity for Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics, if they can prove they are unaffected.

“Russia continues to flaunt the world’s anti-doping rules, kick clean athletes in the gut and poke WADA in the eye and get away with it time and time again”, read a statement from Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). “WADA must stand up to this fraudulent and bullying behaviour as the rules and Olympic values demand. The response proposed by the CRC is inadequate especially given the deceit perpetuated by the Russian sport system which is controlled by the government […] The failure to stand up to Russia’s five-year flaunting of the rules would cause even more harm to athletes in and outside of Russia. The time for the toughest penalty available is now.’

“Russia must think the world is completely stupid if they thought anyone would believe their ham-handed fabrications”, Jim Walden, Dr. Rodchenkov’s lawyer, told the New York Times. “When the full story is revealed, Russia’s desperate efforts to continue to falsely blame Dr. Rodchenkov will be fully exposed”.

As Walden suggests, the full Report exposes that deception, underpinning why criminal legislation in anti-doping is so important. WADA only has jurisdiction over ADOs, not ministries of sport or State agencies. In Austria and Germany, criminal investigations have been vital in uncovering the doping network centred around Dr. Mark Schmidt. 

ADOs are right to have concerns that provisions within the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) requiring information sharing with USADA could compromise anti-doping investigations. But the above shows why this might be necessary. The lives of those involved are now under threat.

Two apparently healthy RUSADA staff died within two weeks of each other when Russia’s State doping was initially discovered. The two had been discussing collaborating on a book exposing the truth.

US criminal action led to the discovery that Russian State agents were behind hacks into ADOs. In Russia, a criminal investigation was used to obstruct discovery of the truth. Through technological nous, WADA has managed to connect the dots. But it was a massive gamble that it shouldn’t have had to take.

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