4 December 2018

Questions raised over Russia’s intention to reform anti-doping

A documentary (video below) produced for ARD and research by The Sports Integrity Initiative has revealed further questions over Russia’s commitment to reforming anti-doping. Hajo Seppelt and Nick Butler spoke to Murmansk-based lawyer Andrey Sushko, who presented research indicating that only ten of Russia’s 85 regions have implemented a December 2016 legislative requirement for each region to delegate a Sport and Health Ministry official to deal with anti-doping.

The Sports Integrity Initiative has found that Russia’s Independent Public Anti-Doping Committee (IPADC), which formulated a May 2017 National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP), has been disbanded. The IADPC website has not been operational since September 2018. One of the aims of the NADP (PDF below) was to restore the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. On 20 September, WADA reinstated RUSADA.

Russia’s Ministry of Sport published an ambitious implementation plan (PDF below) for the NADP on 10 July 2017, which required implementation of a series of measures by the end of 2017. However, it appears that not all of these had been completed by August 2018, when Igor Sidorkevich (Игорь Сидоркевич), a former head of Russia’s Military Police and two-time Sambo world champion, was appointed Russia’s Deputy Minister of Sport and tasked with implementing the NADP.

On 22 November Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), thanked the IPADC for working towards the reinstatement of RUSADA and for preparing the NADP. However, there is no information on the Ministry of Sport’s internet site about whether Sidorkevich was successful in implementing the measures outlined in the NADP, or whether work is ongoing.

‘The national plan for the fight against doping in Russian sport provides for a system of legal, organisational, economic, technical, informational and personnel measures, taking into account the federal structure of the Russian Federation, covering federal and regional levels, aimed at eliminating the root causes of doping in sport’, reads the Russian version of the NADP. ‘The plan should be consistently implemented by state authorities, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the Anti-Doping Laboratory, sports federations and leagues, associations and organisations, as well as other civil society institutions and individuals during 2017.’

These provisions it required to be implemented included:

• The creation of a federal system for monitoring and managing the fight against doping in Russia;
• The creation of a research and development body into countering doping using advanced technologies;
• The introduction of a State accreditation system for organisations providing sports training services;
• Sporting federations to regulate, and provide details on, sports doctors, coaches and other personnel involving in anti-doping;
• A requirement for State authorities active in the fields of health, physical activity and sport to publish the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List; the articles of Russia’s Criminal Code and Code of Administrative Offences that relate to anti-doping; and to lay out professional standards for specialist anti-doping support;
• The development of measures to prevent those sanctioned for a doping offence from working in any government programmes related to physical culture and sport;
• Anti-doping departments to be established in all sporting federations, including appropriate personnel;
• The development of a system to test athletes who are not part of a Registered Testing Pool (RTP);
• Mandatory testing of all athletes who are members of a national team;
• The establishment of a Federal Scientific Centre for sport;
• The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations (FANO); to determine a mechanism for organising and conducting research about:
– the effects of performance enhancing substances, including those that do not feature on the Prohibited List, on the human physiology;
– detection methods;

In more general terms, the NADP also promised:

• Promotion of the use of whistleblowers;
• The creation of a database to inform athletes about whether the substances they are taking are prohibited, in Russian;
• Measures to be developed to make the manufacturers of supplements responsible for any prohibited substances that appear in their products, or inaccurate information;
• Possible reclamation of ‘State and non-State’ money received by athletes and/or coaches found guilty of committing an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV);
• Suspension of state accreditation for sporting federations found guilty of multiple ADRVs.
• Reform of the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) system;
• Education and training of sports doctors and coaches on anti-doping & TUEs;
• Anti-doping educational programmes to be introduced in higher education; sports training organisations; and sports teams;
• Annual sociological studies on the use of doping.

The NADP was supposed to be implemented in the Strategy for the Development of Physical Culture and Sports in the Russian Federation (Стратегию развития физической культуры и спорта в Российской Федерации) for the period until 2020. However, there is no evidence that this has happened. Seppelt and Butler’s discovery that just ten of Russia’s 85 regions have implemented a December 2016 legislative requirement raises questions about whether the above measures, outlined in the NADP, have been implemented.

Differences and issues

There are differences between the English and Russian versions of the NADP. The English version denies that institutionalised doping ever took place in Russia, whereas the Russian version denies State involvement. 

‘The Russian federation has never had an institutionalised and government-operated system of manipulating doping control processes’, reads the English version. This appears to be a translation of the Russian version of the document, which reads: ‘There was no State system for manipulating the results of doping tests of athletes in the Russian Federation’  (При этом в Российской Федерации не было и не существует государственной системы манипулирования результатами допинг-проб спортсменов). This underlines that Russia has not accepted the conclusion of the McLaren Report that such a system existed, despite WADA’s assertions to the contrary. 

Another requirement outlined in WADA’s Roadmap to Compliance was that Russia’s Ministry of Sport put in place a plan for access to ‘closed cities’, where research, nuclear, industrial or military facilities are based and access is restricted. It was found that Doping Control Officers (DCOs) were being refused access to such cities, which were being used for competitions or by athletes for training. The July 2017 NADP implementation plan, above, outlines that only DCOs who are Russian citizens will be able to apply for a special permit to test athletes in closed cities, thus providing advance notice to any athletes or competition based there.

Has the NADP been implemented?

The IPADC was established on 22 July 2016 to investigate and respond to the findings of the first Independent Person (IP) Report into systemic Russian doping, written by Richard McLaren. It could therefore be argued that by coming up with the NADP, it has done its job. However given the findings by Seppelt and Butler that most Russian regions have failed to implement a comparatively simple legislative order requiring them to designate an official to deal with anti-doping, serious questions remain about whether the extensive reforms outlined in the NADP have been implemented.

“We are determined to establish one of the best anti-doping systems in the world”, said Russian President Vladimir Putin at October’s Seventh International Forum ‘Russia: Country of Sports’. “In order to do this, we have developed and are now implementing a national programme [the NADP]. We believe this to be a matter of principle for Russia and for the entire world. Yes, of course, we have seen flaws in our anti-doping system, but I would like to note that these are not only our internal problems. They have demonstrated obvious flaws in the entire international anti-doping system.”

It would appear that Russia’s Ministry of Sport is now in charge of ensuring that the NADP is implemented. One of the major findings of the two IP Reports produced by Richard McLaren for WADA was that the Ministry of Sport was in charge of the manipulation of the anti-doping system that it maintains occurred in Russia. Whether it is a problem that the Ministry of Sport is now managing implementation of the NADP depends on your point of view, but it does appear that independent oversight that the NADP is being implemented is not taking place.

It is also significant that Seppelt and Butler found that a 2008 decree stripping athletes and coaches convicted of an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) of honorary titles was revoked last year. It could be argued that provisions in the NADP would replace this decree, which Seppelt and Butler admit was rarely enforced. But the revocation of such a decree without explanation sends a bad signal to the anti-doping world.

Russia is driving the car

On 28 November, WADA announced that it had held meetings with the Russian authorities regarding access to the Moscow Laboratory. ‘A full technical mission has been provisionally planned but this is subject to a number of outstanding points that need to be clarified in the coming days’, read a WADA statement. ‘With the technical mission, WADA will seek to gain full access to the former Moscow Laboratory, the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and the underlying data of the Laboratory’.

WADA was provided with a copy of the LIMS database by the former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and his former assistant, Tim Sobolevsky, in November 2017. Dr. Rodchenkov was the main whistleblower who provided evidence to Richard McLaren and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the Russian State’s involvement in the manipulation of the anti-doping system. Both are subject to criminal charges issued by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom).

The SKR has alleged that the LIMS database supplied to WADA may be unreliable, arguing that it has confiscated the authentic version under the criminal charges issued against Dr. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky. The Sports Integrity Initiative asked WADA why it could be confident that the data it seeks to access has not been manipulated by the SKR, given that the DoJ recently found that Russian agents had manipulated data when illegally accessing the databases of anti-doping organisations using the Fancy Bears monicker?

‘What our technical team will be looking for is, in addition to the LIMS data we already have, more information that will help strengthen cases that are ongoing as well as allow other ADRVs to be asserted’, read an email from a WADA spokesperson. ‘Part of that will be the underlying raw data from the server and from other equipment contained within the lab. Our confidence in the veracity of the LIMS data we already have is very high.’

WADA explained that it could not go into detail about the ‘outstanding points’ that needed clarifying before it can access the data it requires. ‘We have communicated the exact situation in this regard to the Russian authorities’, continued the spokesperson. ‘They are aware of our position and hopefully will respond very shortly’. WADA said that access to the data it requires must be provided before 31 December, as outlined in its 20 September decision. ‘Clearly, it needs to take place before the end of the month’.

Russia’s Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, has a slightly differing interpretation. “The conditions must be met before 30 June”, he told Sport Express in an interview published on the Ministry of Sport’s internet site. “We are now talking about the interim requirements…we just have to comply with the procedural rules because, do not forget, for several years we have been conducting a criminal investigation concerning possible violations involving the Moscow Laboratory. It is complicated by the fact that a number of the defendants did not get in touch and do not testify. But now we have a chance to collectively establish the truth.”

As WADA states in its 20 September decision:

• ‘RUSADA and the Russian Ministry of Sport must procure that the authentic Information Management System (LIMS) data and underlying analytical data of the former Moscow Laboratory set out in the WADA President’s letter of 22 June 2018 are received by WADA (via access to the data by an independent expert agreeable to both WADA and the Russian authorities) by no later than 31 December 2018.
• ‘RUSADA and the Russian Ministry of Sport must procure that any re-analysis of samples required by WADA following review of such data is completed by no later than 30 June 2019’.

In effect, Kolobkov is saying that all that needs to be done is that RUSADA and the Ministry of Sport must ensure that an independent expert has access to the LIMS data by 31 December. The second point mandates that following a WADA review of the data, RUSADA and the Russian Ministry of Sport must carry out reanalysis of the samples, and that this is completed by 30 June 2019.

Kolobkov’s comments also appear to suggest that he is keen to work with WADA in order to ensure that Dr. Rodchekov and Sobolevsky comply with the SKR’s criminal investigation. Could this be one of the ‘outstanding points’ about which negotiations are continuing?

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

There has never been any information on how the NADP intends to ‘promote the use of whistleblowers’ such as Dr. Rodchenkov, who is under the protection of the US Federal Witness Protection Program, and has changed his appearance due to fears for his safety. The SKR has never specified when its investigation into Dr. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky will be completed.

In 2014, after a documentary produced for ARD forced the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to acknowledge what was going on in Russia, former RUSADA Director Nikita Kamaev and Founding Chairman of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinev, died within two weeks of each other. The two had discussed collaborating on an exposé style book discussing doping.

It would appear that the Russian Ministry of Sport, which was implicated as overseeing the doping manipulation outlined in the McLaren Reports, is now overseeing the implementation of NADP doping reforms in Russia. Russia is also overseeing WADA’s access to the Moscow LIMS data. As previously reported, an exchange of letters between WADA President Sir Craig Reedie and Kolobkov outlines:

1. Access to both the samples and the LIMS database depends on the ‘consent’ of the SKR.
2. The Ministry of Sport will be providing the independent expert used to analyse the LIMS data and samples, which WADA will be required to approve or reject.
3. Kolobkov only commits to providing an independent expert with access to analytical equipment to retrieve the LIMS data and urine samples – not access to the data and samples themselves, and not the full access to both, as originally sought by WADA.
4. The independent expert’s access to the analytical equipment must be supervised by the SKR.

WADA’s approach to dealing with Russia’s doping issues has not changed. Due to Russia’s history in this area, it is concerning that WADA is allowing Russia to dictate reform. To borrow phrasing recently used by its Director General at its recent media symposium, it would appear WADA is continuing to allow Russia to be “the driver of the car”. Given the issues outlined above, this is a serious concern.

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