28 April 2020

RUSADA annual report: progress & politics

The 2019 Annual Report (PDF below) of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) outlines a 38.36% increase in anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) from 140 during 2018 to 202 during 2019. The number of samples collected by RUSADA rose by 16.5% from 9,502 during 2018 to 11,072 during 2019 and 70% of tests were targeted, compared to 47.4% last year. Out of competition samples accounted for 64.7% of all tests. All of the above may account for RUSADA’s improved ADRV figures, which show that it is successfully prosecuting more people.

RUSADA collected 12,105 samples during 2019, far exceeding its target of 11,000. This included 11,072 tests performed by RUSADA as part of is Test Distribution Plan (TDP), 244 through contracts with national sporting federations, and 699 for other anti-doping organisations. In a country the size of Russia (17.1km2), the fact that all samples can reach Moscow within two days from over 6,000 towns and cities is a major achievement. 

Yet interestingly, the Report reveals that in 2018 – the year of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics – the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) didn’t contract RUSADA to perform a single test. The ROC and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) are the Founding Members of RUSADA.

During the year, RUSADA carried out 94 investigations into ADRVs – 74 of them relating to RUSADA’s investigations into the Chuvash Republic. Twenty investigations were completed during the year, and RUSADA reported a 10.6% drop in whereabouts violations from 349 during 2018 to 312 in 2019.

RUSADA also made huge strides in education. This included a 32% increase in the number of educational events to 223; a 57% increase in the number of people attending to 15,409; and users of an online training course more than doubling from 51,139 to 114,165. During the year, RUSADA’s Deputy Director Margarita Pakhnotskaya (Маргарита Пахноцкая) was elected as Chair of the Ad Hoc Group on the Protection of Whistleblowers in anti-doping on the Council of Europe.


Analysis of the RUSADA Report also raises valid questions about whether the Agency is truly independent, as required by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as part of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions. WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) outlined a condition of reinstatement was that ‘WADA Management remains satisfied throughout the Four Year Period that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations’ when recommending that RUSADA be declared as non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code due to manipulation of the Laboratory Information System (LIMS) retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January 2019.

In November last year, WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations Department found that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) had manipulated the LIMS data. In an October 2019 Open Letter, RUSADA’s Director General Yuriy Ganus (Юрия Гануса) criticised claims in the Russian media that RUSADA was involved with such manipulations – as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative. He blamed Russia’s Ministry of Sport for the situation.

‘The sports organization of Russia, or rather the part of it that was engaged in resolving the doping crisis, which is lasting for the fifth year, shocked once again the whole world with manipulations, now with electronic databases of the ill-fated Moscow Laboratory, whose reputation is being driven deeper into oblivion’, writes Ganus in an 8 October 2019 Open Letter, produced as Appendix 2 in the Annual Report. ‘By October 9, 2019, the Russian sports authorities are waited to provide acceptable clear explanations on the presented structure. I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that they expect it from the Russian sports authorities represented by The Minister of sports of the Russian Federation, not from RUSADA!’

Russia’s former Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov…

The above statement also features in a September 30 Open Letter, attached as Appendix 1 to the above Report. ‘After reading the documents sent by WADA to the Minister of sports P. A. Kolobkov and to me, one of the key conclusions that can be made: we were betrayed, we were deprived of the right to be on the side of the truth, and it was done by those responsible for the recovery of the sports organization from the doping crisis’, reads this Letter. ‘And, when we try to oppose, it is important to remember that the actions of our officials and state bodies are mute evidence of their position. By rejecting the findings of Richard McLaren’s reports, on the one hand, at the same time officials’ actions actually confirm correctness of the report, among which already can be: destruction of our case on internal investigation, involving professional experts, in the main Investigation Department of the Ministry of internal Affairs in Moscow, launching on us the Supervisory mechanism of the Prosecutor’s office for legal cooperation with the AIU, one of the founders (ROC) tries to exert a dominant influence on us, including issues of anti-doping standards.’

On 8 October, WADA received a response from the Russian authorities to the questions about inconsistencies discovered in July between the data WADA retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January, and the Moscow LIMS provided to it by whistleblowers in November 2017. ‘The letter with this response of the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation to WADA was also not provided to RUSADA’, writes Ganus in the Annual Report.

Ganus is also critical of the lack of input RUSADA staff have into decisions taken by its Founders and Supervisory Board, which he argues are ‘frozen in time’. As mentioned, RUSADA’s Founders are the ROC and the RPC; and its Supervisory Board features both the RPC and the Ministry of Sport, but not Ganus or Pakhnotskaya, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative in December last year. 

Ganus argues that this structure meant he was forced to inform WADA that RUSADA would be appealing its Decision to declare it non-compliant with the Code for a four year period. ‘The Director General of RUSADA, Yuriy Ganus, was accused that his disagreement with the decisions of the founders and the Supervisory Board of RUSADA threatens the integrity of RUSADA, because he pursues a line different from theirs and does not fully support their decisions’, reads the Report. Ganus is aware that this situation could compromise WADA’s insistence that RUSADA is independent in its decision making, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative.  

Yet despite the concerns he highlights above, Ganus recommended that both the Ministry of Sport and the ROC provide two representatives each to a commission designed to restore the Russian Athletics Federation’s (RusAF) membership of World Athletics, as outlined in Appendix 4. Although it is not dated, this recommendation was issued on 5 December last year, after the dated Open Letters also included as appendices to RUSADA’s Annual Report.

‘We were the pioneers in suggesting the fundamental changes in the All-Russian Athletics Federation’, writes Ganus. ‘Our calls not only were not heard, but we were attacked by media on a massive scale’. Yet a recently formed RusAF Restoration Commission does appear to have adopted Ganus’s suggested structure. RusAF remains suspended by World Athletics, and has recently been sanctioned for forging documentation in order to assist the cover up of a whereabouts run violation by high jumper Danil Lysenko.

As mentioned, Ganus has already highlighted his concerns that these issues may breach WADA’s requirements for the restoration of RUSADA. ‘RUSADA cannot, by definition, be independent from its founders’, reads an answer from Alexander Filatov, RUSADA’s Ethics Officer (PDF below). ‘The General Meeting of the founders is the highest governing body of the organisation […] Giving information about the decisions of the founders’ meeting is not an operating statutory activity of the agency, and this instruction by the founders of the organisation to the Director General cannot be deemed, in my opinion, as external interference (breach of independence) into the activities of RUSADA.’

Chuvashia Report

On Page 19 of the Annual Report, RUSADA argues that an Independent Working Group (IWG) set up to investigate allegations of ADRVs in the Chuvash Republic ‘aims to discredit RUSADA activities, and the accusations against the Anti-Doping Agency are not supported by actual evidence’. The IWG counter argues that the Report is supported by detailed evidence available to all anti-doping stakeholders, and that its main recommendations related to the removal of Chuvash officials.

The Report was also critical of RUSADA’s methods of investigating ADRVs in the Chuvash Republic. RUSADA’s Annual Report argues that this conclusion is ‘defamatory’, an accusation that the IWG disputes. It is understood that the IWG was asked to delay publication of the English version of the Report until 9 December last year, after WADA took its decision on whether to declare RUSADA as non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code for a four year period.

Ganus held a meeting with Igor Sidorkevich (Игорь Сидоркевич), one of six Deputy Russian Ministers of Sport, on 18 December. The meeting was a day before RUSADA’s Supervisory Board announced its recommendation that WADA’s decision to declare RUSADA non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code for a four year period should be appealed. Ganus argues that the meeting discussed issues in the fight against doping, but not RUSADA’s appeal or RusAF’s reinstatement. 

Work in progress

RUSADA’s Annual Report outlines the massive strides it has taken in both implementing a cultural change in anti-doping in very difficult circumstances. The fact that it has managed all of the activity outlined in the above Report on a total budget of 591.5 million rubles (€7.4 million) is an amazing achievement.

Although 556.7 million (€6.94 million) of that budget was provided by the Russian State, anti-doping doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Other national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) operate using a similar model – for example, WADA receives 50% of its funding from governments.

As such, it might be viewed as unfair for WADA to require RUSADA to operate entirely separately from the Russian State. But, as outlined above, concerns remain that RUSADA remains too close to State officials.

The situation over the IWG’s Report into ADRVs in the Chuvash Republic remains a delicate one. RUSADA argues that the IWG was designed to discredit RUSADA. The IWG argues that this isn’t the case. Yet after a two year investigation, it would appear that none of the 74 potential ADRVs investigated by RUSADA have been concluded. Why?

Artwork from RUSADA’s 2019 Annual Report…

It would appear that important decisions – such as the one to appeal WADA’s Decision to sanction RUSADA as non-compliant with the Code for a Four Year period – are taken by RUSADA’s Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board includes Andrew Minyaev (Андрей Миняев), Director of the Legal Department for the Ministry of Sport; a member of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development; a medical scientist; the Head of the Sports Conventions Division of the Council of Europe; athlete Yelena Isinbayeva; a cosmonaut; and the Secretary General of the RPC.

Keeping Ganus and Pakhnotskaya at arms length would be a great strategy for allowing the Russian State the ability to claim that RUSADA is operating independently, whilst retaining control over important decisions. If this is accurate, then WADA’s requirement that RUSADA must demonstrate its independence over the period of its four year ban appears sensible. It would also explain Ganus’s frustrations.

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