26 April 2019

RUSADA Annual Report highlights extraordinary changes made

The 2017/18 Annual Report of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) illustrates the extraordinary work that has been carried out in order to reform attitudes towards doping within Russia. Reforms include a complete replacement of all Doping Control Officers (DCOs) and chaperones; an increase in testing; and huge strides made in education and international cooperation. 

‘We live in a period when sport, whether we like it or not, resembles more and more a war projection, when interests of various geopolitical rivals clash at sport arenas’, writes Yuriy Ganus, RUSADA’s Director General, in his introduction to the Report. ‘And suspension from major world starts is akin to pushing athletes to other sports jurisdictions’.


Sample collection overview…

RUSADA collected 9,502 samples during 2018, a 53.4% increase on the 6,196 samples collected in 2017. This compares to 11,336 collected by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) in 2017/18; 9,936 collected by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in 2017; or 16,351 collected by Germany’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in 2017.

More than half (6,196 – 65.2%) of these were collected outside of competition. This feat is remarkable given that RUSADA replaced 100% of its DCOs during 2018, training 100 new DCOs and 14 chaperones on the advice of Ieva Lukosiute-Stanikuniene and Peter Nicholson, the international experts appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to rebuild RUSADA’s anti-doping programme.

In total, RUSADA reported 146 anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) during 2018, 1.54% of the 9,502 samples it collected. This is a greater proportion than: the 23 ADRVs collected by UKAD during 2017, 0.2% of the 11,336 samples collected; the 49 ADRVs reported by USADA during 2017, 0.49% of the 9,936 samples collected; the 82 ADRVs reported by NADA Germany during 2017, 0.50% of the 16,351 samples collected. The 146 ADRVs reported by RUSADA for 2018 is a 147% increase on the 59 ADRVs reported during 2017.

ADRVs & whereabouts failures…

As the table below shows, Powerlifting reported the most ADRVs within Russia during 2018, with its 30 ADRVs representing 20.55% of the 146 samples collected from the sport’s athletes. Athletics reported the second highest number of ADRVs, but the 23 reported represented just 0.94% of the 2,440 samples collected from track and field athletes.

Which Laboratories analysed samples from Russian athletes during 2018…

Eleven athletes were sanctioned for refusing a test during 2018, and RUSADA reported that whereabouts failures were 102% up on 2017’s figure of 173, at 349 for 2018. Taken together, these two figures perhaps suggest that some athletes are still attempting to avoid being tested. 

The majority of samples (6,257 or 65.85%) were taken outside of competition, and just 16% were analysed at the Moscow Laboratory (most were analysed outside of Russia). On 17 July 2017, WADA allowed RUSADA to resume testing under the supervision of UKAD, after RUSADA confirmed that Moscow State University would take control of the Moscow Laboratory from Russia’s Ministry of Sport. 

Samples collected by type…

However, the implementation document for Russia’s National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP) revealed that the Laboratory would be created under the ‘Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education’. In other words, although it is no longer under Ministry of Sport control, the Moscow State University Laboratory is still indirectly financed by the Russian State.

Other reforms

In April 2018, RUSDA signed an agreement for a Russian clinic to provide blood collection officers for RUSADA testing missions. By the end of 2018, it had agreed contracts with medical organisations in all key cities and regions. 

A total of 21 investigations took place in 2018, a 23% increase on the 17 investigations that took place during 2017. ‘In order to increase the efficiency of anti-doping work and prevent anti-doping rule violations, RUSADA has substantially improved its interaction with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and is working on strengthening its cooperation with the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation’, reads the Report.

A whistleblower hotline has also been implemented, which received 78 reports during 2018, compared to 41 during 2017. Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) are also up 3% from the 98 approved during 2017, to 101 approved during 2018.

In order to provide accurate information to athletes in Cyrillic script, list.rusada.ru has been launched. This ought to help avoid confusion similar to that which occurred over meldonium’s addition to WADA’s Prohibited List. As previously reported, meldonium is widely used in Russia and is known under a different name, mildronate. It was added to the List following questionable research ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, and the change was not sufficiently publicised in Cyrillic script, leading many Russian athletes to feel unfairly targeted.

Russia is a huge country and therefore, educating athletes about anti-doping is a big challenge. Given the geography of Russia, online education makes sense. RUSADA announced that 51,139 online education courses have been completed during 2019, a 645% increase on the 7,934 completed during 2017. 

Novel initiatives have also been implemented in order to change cultural views about doping, such as the Vita chat bot (@rusadavitabot), which allows athletes to ask a RUSADA specialist questions via the Telegram platform. RUSADA has also produced a comic (English PDF below – click to open in new window) aimed at children, composed by Margarita Pakhnotskaya, its Deputy Director General.


RUSADA is still funded via the Federal State Budget, which provided RUB545,551,800 (€7.6 million) in funding during 2018, 96.5% of its budget. Through sample collection services provided for other sporting organisations, RUSADA received RUB19,841,801.67 (€275,000). 

Although some State funding is normal for most national anti-doping organisations (NADOs), it is not true for all of them. For example, Peter Van Eenoo of Ghent’s DoCoLab recently told the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) Conference that his Laboratory doesn’t receive any government funding. As such, whether RUSADA is truly independent of the Russian State is still subject to debate. 

However, it would appear that RUSADA’s approach to tackling anti-doping has changed. This was first illustrated in December last year, when Ganus, RUSADA’s Director General, urged Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, to do everything in his power to help restore RUSADA to compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. 

Detail from RUSADA’s 2018 Annual Report…

Another incident signalling a change in approach was RUSADA’s December decision to appeal against a decision of its own Disciplinary Committee in an attempt to extend a tampering sanction issued to a coach, who had also been accused of attempted bribery. Earlier this week, RUSADA agreed a partnership with Russian social media network VKontakte (VK), designed to promote clean sport. It would appear that changes are continuing.

RUSADA’s 2018 Annual Report is punctured with imagery asking athletes to question whether their actions uphold the values of ‘clean’ sport. It has engaged with requirements under the World Anti-Doping Code to both investigate potential anti-doping rule violations, and educate athletes. Given recent history, people perhaps retain the right to remain cynical. However, it would appear that RUSADA has come a long way since its Annual Reports indicated that it may have manipulated doping test figures. And that should be welcomed.

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