14th December 2021

Questions over background of new RUSADA Director General

Veronika Loginova (Вероника Логинова), a former employee of Russia’s Ministry of Sport, has been appointed as the new Director General of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), in a process overseen by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Her status as an ‘independent expert’ appointed by UNESCO to work on monitoring compliance with the International Convention against Doping in Sport was highlighted by RUSADA in a statement, which emphasised that WADA had overseen her appointment and had not objected to it.

Loginova was listed as a Russian State representative in a WADA consultation (click to open)…

Loginova was previously Head of Anti-Doping Support and the Interdepartmental Cooperation Department at the Department of Science and Education at Russia’s Ministry of Sport. She worked there for at least 18 months, as she is named as such in RUSADA statements from September 2018 and February 2020. She is also named as a Ministry of Sport representative in a WADA consolation on its International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories (ISCCS), which she criticised as ‘too strict’ (see right).

A UNESCO document reveals that Loginova has already worked for RUSADA…

She also worked for RUSADA prior to its initial suspension on 19 November 2015, due to systemic manipulation of the doping control process orchestrated by the Russian State. A document from 12 November 2015 reveals that she was part of a team evaluating Belarus’ compliance with UNESCO’s Anti-Doping Convention (see right).

Following changes at RUSADA, WADA reinstated it as Code compliant in a controversial September 2018 Decision, based on the condition that it would provide the authentic Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), underlying data and samples. 

WADA again declared RUSADA as not compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code for four years in December 2019, after finding that the Moscow LIMS had been altered by State officials whilst being copied by WADA in January 2019. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) later shortened RUSADA’s period of non-compliance, which doesn’t expire until 18 December 2022.

On 15 September, WADA Management met Russia’s Ministry of Sport in Istanbul about RUSADA’s reinstatement…

WADA held a meeting with the Russian Ministry of Sport in September this year, after sharing a Reinstatement Monitoring Plan in June. Given the interference of the Russian State in RUSADA’s past work, WADA President Witold Bańka stressed the importance of maintaining RUSADA’s autonomy. 

“The need for RUSADA to retain its independence is critical”, he said. “There must be no attempt by the Russian state or sporting authorities to interfere with any of its operations. Associated with that, the appointment of RUSADA’s next Director General must follow a rigorous process to ensure the right person is hired for this important position, and that they are able to function independently in the role.”

WADA claims that Loginova had only worked for the Ministry of Sport for under a year. ‘The successful candidate is a former employee of the Ministry of Sport but she has not been there for more than a year’, wrote a spokesperson in response to questions sent by The Sports Integrity Initiative. This is directly contradicted by the RUSADA statement from September 2018, and by WADA’s own document relating to the Second Consultation Phase on the ISCCS, which ran from 1 June to 14 October 2017. This adds at least another 11 months to Loginova’s time with Russia’s Ministry of Sport.

‘The fact that she worked at the Ministry at some point in the past does not contradict any operational independence requirement’, continued the spokesperson’s email response. ‘As per the conditions of the process established by the Supervisory Board, WADA appointed an observer to sit on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Director General Selection Committee. The WADA observer was afforded access to all documentation and meetings held by the committee. Based on the observer’s report, WADA is satisfied that the selection and recruitment of the RUSADA Director General followed the agreed upon process. All available evidence suggests that it was carried out independently and in accordance with the principles of objectivity and due diligence.’

A statement from the Russian Bar Association (ARLF), one of RUSADA’s ‘Founders’, reveals that Loginova is also a member of the Working Group on improving legislation in the field of physical culture and sports, which operates under the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs. She is also a member of the Russian Athletics Federation’s (RusAF) Disciplinary Commission; and is a member of the European Olympic Committee’s (EOC) Medical and Anti-Doping Commission.

Russia didn’t report a single AAF at Sochi 2014…

She is also an Advisor to the Russian International Olympic University on the development of anti-doping programmes, and is listed by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) as a ‘representative of Russia’ on international sporting organisations. She was also appointed by WADA as part of its Outreach group to implement an anti-doping education programme at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where the doping control system was circumvented by RUSADA and the Russian State.

It is significant that Loginova apparently has connections to the Russian Olympic movement. Alongside the Ministry of Sport, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) were RUSADA’s original ‘Founders’. In January this year, WADA removed the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) as RUSADA’s ‘Founders’, judging that they also compromised RUSADA’s independence. There are also significant questions regarding the ROC and RPC’s replacements.

Dual election process

WADA’s spokesperson said that an observer was appointed to sit on the RUSADA Director General Selection Committee, and approved the election process. The ARLF outlined that 40 candidates were interviewed, some of which had been previously agreed with WADA. 

“WADA expressed its satisfaction with such an open and transparent electoral process”, said Vladimir Gruzdev (Владимир Груздев) of the ARLF in its statement. Gruzdev is Chairman of the ARLF and a former Russian politician, who also served in Russia’s foreign intelligence agency (SVR RF or СВР РФ).

However, ARLF conducted a dual stage application process, which allowed it to dismiss over 170 applications in just three days. It isn’t clear if WADA’s observer monitored this initial first stage.

On 25 October, ARLF announced the opening of competition to fill the vacant post of RUSADA Director General. Detailed requirements were only available via application from RUSADA and were to be submitted to a gmail address, not a RUSADA or ARLF address.

Three days later, on 27 October, ARLF held a ‘general meeting of the Founders of RUSADA’, it announced. It was decided that ‘none of the 170-plus announced candidates received the required number of votes’. 

The application process was then extended until 1 November. It is not clear if the 170-plus applications from stage one of the process were permitted to reapply but given that they had already been rejected as unsuitable, this appears improbable.

World Athletics

World Athletics remains unconvinced that RUSADA is able to operate independently, and is considering imposing further restrictions on RusAF. As previously reported, RusAF cannot be restored to full World Athletics membership until RUSADA is reinstated, meaning that Russian track and field athletes will not be able to compete internationally without restrictions until 18 December next year.

‘At present the AIU is encountering difficulties in obtaining some important data (electropherograms and other records of the results of analysis of samples for EPO and/or related substances), and therefore at present it appears that those reinstatement conditions have not been met’, read the most recent 1 December Report from its Russia Taskforce (click here to download). ‘Nor is it clear whether RUSADA is able to perform its role as the independent Russian NADO effectively. Partly in response to that concern, RusAF has agreed to the AIU conducting extra testing of RusAF’s athletes, at RusAF’s cost. However, the underlying issues with RUSADA remain. The Taskforce will therefore consider whether to recommend that Council impose further reinstatement conditions on RusAF that are designed to address these issues. I will report back on this at the next Council meeting.’

Like WADA, World Athletics has also been stung by interference in anti-doping procedures. Yet those judged to have compromised RUSADA’s integrity are still in place at RusAF. It still lists the Ministry of Sport and the ROC as its partners. 

As previously mentioned, Loginova is a member of the RusAF Disciplinary Commission. Of eight Commissions listed on the RusAF internet site, the composition of the Athletes Commission and the Disciplinary Commission are the only ones not detailed. Apart from Loginova, who else sits on that Commission?

Operational independence 

Nothing in this article questions Loginova’s integrity. What is concerning is the process by which she was appointed. WADA requires RUSADA to demonstrate operational independence before it can be reinstated as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. Can somebody with connections to bodies that WADA has previously determined have compromised RUSADA’s integrity be considered operationally independent from them?

It is in WADA’s interest to restore RUSADA as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. Russia is one of the largest sporting nations in the world, and a non-functioning national anti-doping agency facilitates individual doping. Now that the world’s ear has been turned, it is debatable whether Russian State authorities could get away with large scale manipulation of the doping control process again. So does this even matter?

WADA’s approval of Loginova’s appointment in a process that appears to have been carefully managed once again exposes WADA to accusations that its governance is beset by conflicts of interest. It met with the Ministry of Sport and not RUSADA to discuss the appointment. It watched and approved a process that saw RUSADA appoint a previous employee with connections to bodies that WADA had previously determined compromised RUSADA’s independence.

Witold Bańka

Such action appears contradictory to a recent statement made by Witold Bańka, WADA’s President. ‘There are some who want to politicize anti-doping and turn it into a power struggle between certain factions or nations’, he wrote. ‘But for me, it is important not to discriminate and we must not cede control to vested interests who want to place their organizations above others. When it comes to supporting athletes, it is crucial that we are equitable. A gap anywhere in the system is a problem for all of us and we must ensure that underfunded or lower profile regions of the world are not allowed to fall behind when it comes to protecting clean sport. I will not allow WADA to become part of anyone’s political game.’

Sir Craig Reedie (right) at the CMS Committee of the UK Parliament…

Yet WADA’s actions again suggests that political appeasement is more important to WADA than principles. Has anything changed since Sir Craig Reedie departed as WADA President? 

In August 2016, Reedie admitted1 to the 129th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Rio that WADA received evidence four years before the first documentary for ARD on systemic Russian doping. In a powerpoint presentation (since deleted), Reedie admitted that WADA had received information from whistleblowers in 2010, but it was not ‘concrete evidence’ and WADA lacked the power to investigate under the 2009 World Anti-Doping Code. In December of that year, he told the UK Parliament that he first became aware of what was going on in Russia in December 2014.

However, in this article, WADA’s Chief Investigator from 2011 onwards says that he went to WADA management on a number of occasions only to be told WADA didn’t have the money to investigate. “There was a concern Craig Reedie would somehow jeopardise the investigation”, said Jack Robertson.

The above background illustrates why WADA’s approval of Loginova’s appointment matters. Operational independence is crucial for the world to trust that Russia’s athletes are not being manipulated into doping.

Has WADA’s approval of her appointment jeopardised that trust? Has WADA’s new leadership scuppered the chance to make a real change in the governance of anti-doping in Russia by allowing the status quo to continue? Perhaps time will tell…

Footnotes

1. Reedie & WADA apparently didn’t notice a double page spread in the Mail on Sunday, published in July 2013. This memo from 7 November 2014 also confirms that WADA knew about what was going on in Russia prior to ARD’s documentary.

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