29 November 2017

PTG2017: McLaren wants obligation on athletes to report doping

Richard McLaren, the Independent Person who complied two reports on doping in Russia for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), would like to see an obligation on athletes to report doping. He also said that he doesn’t regret changing his definition of the doping system his reports outlined from ‘State-sponsored’ to ‘institutionalised’. This change in definition has allowed Russia to ramp up its claims that there was no State doping system, supported by the Investigative Commission of the Russian Federation (SKR).

“Athletes only come forward when they have a particular reason for doing so”, said McLaren at Play The Game in Eindhoven. “You are not going to have people whistleblowing just because they have seen something. Yes, I was talking about an obligation to report, similar to that regarding match-fixing.”

Such agreements are in place in cricket and tennis, and allow athletes to be sanctioned for not reporting a suspicious approach. Asked to clarify how such a provision might work later, McLaren said that it could be included in the Athlete Agreement, which elite athletes are required to sign when they want to participate in elite sport. This is the same agreement that denies athletes recourse to ordinary courts of law, stating that all disagreements must be arbitrated at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“In match-fixing in professional tennis, that [reporting] is a requirement in the rules”, he explained. “Something similar could be done with respect to doping issues. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than what we have now. The quid pro quo is that sport would have to conduct an investigation and that doesn’t happen, as we’ve seen in many circumstances. Information flows into these organisations, disappears and is never acted on.”

Russian doping: State sponsored on institutionalised?

McLaren also said that he did not regret changing his definition of the doping methodology outlined in his two IP Reports from ‘State-sponsored’ to ‘systemic’. “I needed certain information at the time”, he explained. “I met with Russian officials, I got the cooperation I was looking for. I wanted to demonstrate clearly to them that I was listening to what they had to say and making changes where I thought that I should. So I don’t regret changing the discussion.”

“Many people would take the definition of State sponsored just as the fact that the Minster of Sport is involved, which he clearly was. There are other conflicting definitions of State sponsored, but if you use the Russian definition, or version, then it’s not State sponsored, but it is certainly institutional.”

McLaren said that the involvement of the Russian federal police (FSB) suggested that there were a lot of “moving parts” within the institutional doping system operating in Russia. “What is a federal police service doing involved in any of this?” he asked. “It is not a police function. As I was saying to somebody, who raised a criminal question, this is a contractual matter. Athletes, federations, and national governing bodies agree by contract not to do these things. It’s not State sponsored in that sense. It’s not a criminal problem.”

McLaren argued that it was Vitaly Mutko, the Deputy Minister of Sport at the time, who appointed Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov as Director of the Moscow Laboratory in 2012. He also points out that Rodchenkov was also an FSB agent. This appears to be in direct conflict to Bryan Fogel’s ‘Icarus’ documentary, where Dr. Rodchenkov states that his release from a mental institution to run the Moscow Laboratory was directly ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Don’t forget that throughout that period – before and after – he was a sworn FSB officer, so he was reporting to an FSB operative throughout his entire period as a lab Director”, said McLaren. “Blaming everything on him is just not the facts. Mutko himself appointed the man. If he had these suspicions and problems with him, then he shouldn’t have done that in the first place. That was in 2012, long before these problems surfaced. In the position he’s in now, I think it would be extremely dangerous for him to lie. He could well be deported if he did.”

Dr. Rodchenkov studied Chemical Kinetics and Catalysis at Moscow State University before graduating in 1982, after which it is understood that he spent time studying with Don Catlin, who founded the UCLA Laboratory in the US – also in 1982. It is understood that Rodchenkov did not start work at the Moscow Laboratory until 1985, leaving in 1994 to work for Interlab before joining the Anti-Doping Centre in Calgary for the 1998 Winter Olympics. After that, he returned to Russia and took a number of roles before returning to work for the Moscow Laboratory in 2005, becoming Director a year later.

In 2011, he was arrested along with his sister, Marina Rodchenkova as part of a doping conspiracy involving senior Russian athletics officials. He attempted to take his own life on 23 February 2011 and was sectioned within a mental institution until 26 April, when he was released. In the ‘Icarus’ documentary, Dr. Rodchenkov tells Fogel that this release was personally ordered by Russian President, Vladimir Putin, due to an invitation to visit the London 2012 laboratory and in return for Rodchenkov’s running the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic doping programme.

As previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, urine samples are still held in the Moscow Laboratory, where they are sealed off due to an ongoing investigation by the SKR. McLaren said that investigating judicial authorities were entitled to seize evidence, but added “it’s also a convenient explanation from a political point of view”.

“I don’t understand the strategy that they’re trying to use to say it never happened”, stated McLaren. “The more they come up with explanations that are as ludicrous as suggesting that this was all done to manipulate voting in the election in March next year…the more you say those sort of things, the more I think you change public opinion. Of course it’s a political game.”

If Rodchenkov was appointed by Putin, as he told Bryan Fogel, then that appears to be direct evidence of State involvement in Russian systemic doping. If Mutko appointed him, then that neatly fits Russia’s argument that Putin’s ‘inner circle’ were not involved in the ‘systemic’ doping McLaren’s evidence outlined. Dr. Rodcehenkov’s extensive diaries, as chronicled in the New York Times, support the involvement of Mutko, who was promoted from Minister of Sport to Deputy Prime Minister by Vladimir Putin after news of the systemic Russian doping system broke.

“If the FSB is involved in the swapping of doping samples, or in the cover up of doping, then it is very clear that we talk about State-supported doping cover ups”, said journalist Hajo Seppelt, who has produced a number of investigations into systemic Russian doping. “Even in the Legkov decision yesterday, the McLaren Report was quoted and they were talking about State supported and State funded. Everyone is now aware – and even the IOC is aware – that this was at least influenced by the Russian State.”

Splitting hairs

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due to made a decision on what action to take over Russia on 5 December. At PlayTheGame, delegates dismissed the idea of imposing a fine on Russia, which they said would send the wrong signal. “Does the IOC really have the ability to impose a fine?” questioned McLaren. “I think that the two parties could agree on a monetary payment which they might call a fine, but they don’t have any authority to impose a fine. There’s nothing in the IOC’s rules that will allow that to occur.”

The arguments above appear to be splitting hairs, but the change in McLaren’s definition has made it easier for the Russian authorities to claim that the systemic doping that took place in Russia was not State supported. Whether such political manoeuvring has managed to influence the IOC remains to be seen. What is worrying is that the focus once again appears to have shifted back towards punishing the athlete.

WADA was told about the doping system operating in Russia in 2010 (Stepanovs), 2012 (Pischalnikova) and 2013 (Mail on Sunday). Athletes reporting doping have faced considerable threats as late as March this year. Is it therefore right to consider sanctioning people for not reporting doping? It could be argued that many athletes don’t have a choice but to stay quiet.

If WADA had been collecting and analysing the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) anti-doping reports as required by Article 14.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, they might have noticed apparent manipulation of testing figures, dating back to 2008. Alarm bells also should have rung when Russia reported not a single adverse analytical finding at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

The blood database obtained and analysed by Hajo Seppelt dates back to 2001 and allegedly revealed widespread doping across sport. A 2011 study published on the International Association of Athletics Federations’s (IAAF) internet site, involving analysis of samples taken back in 2001, reveals (Table 2, left) that certain countries may have had an issue with doping.

As The Sports Integrity Initiative has previously highlighted, many of the athletes hoping to compete in the Sochi 2014 Olympics will have been untouched by the Russian doping system, as the allegations outlined by McLaren date back to 2014 and before. Yet once again, the focus has shifted back onto them. It is time to stop punishing athletes for the mistakes of sport’s administrators.

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