20 December 2019

RUSADA appeal shows who is in control

The Supervisory Board of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has recommended that the agency appeal against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) decision to declare it non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code for a four year period. The recommendation will be discussed at a RUSADA Executive Committee meeting on Christmas Eve and if approved, formal notice will be sent to the WADA by its 30 December deadline. After WADA receives notification of RUSADA’s appeal, the matter will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for deliberation.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, RUSADA’s Deputy Director General…

Margarita Pakhnotskaya (Маргарита Пахноцкая), RUSADA’s Deputy Director, told TASS that neither she nor Yuriy Ganus (Юрия Гануса), RUSADA’s Director General, would comment. As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, neither are members of the seven person Supervisory Board and it is understood they did not take part in the decision. Yelena Isinbayeva (Елена Исинбаева) and Sergey Hrychikov (Сергей Хрычиков) are understood to have abstained from voting.

The five who voted in favour of appealing WADA’s sanction acted on the ‘advice of the founders’ of RUSADA, reported TASS. The founders of RUSADA are the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC). “I believe that there is a high probability that the recommendation of the RUSADA Supervisory Board will be adopted”, said ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov (Станислав Поздняков) in a statement. “The Supervisory Board, an independent body, is composed of respected, competent colleagues who have today adopted a weighted, informed, and reasoned decision”.

A representative of Russia’s Ministry of Sport sits on RUSADA’s Supervisory Board…

It could be argued that those who voted in favour of the appeal are far from independent. They are Alexander Ivlev (Александр Ивлев), Chairman of the Supervisory Board and a member of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Public Council of Russia; Vladimir Chekhonin (Влади́мир Чехо́нин), Vice Chairman and a member of the Presidium of Russian Academy of Sciences; Sergey Ryazansky (Серге́й Ряза́нский), a Russian cosmonaut; Andrey Strokin (Андре́й Стро́кин), a former Paralympic swimmer; and Igor Vasilchenko (Игорь Васильченко), who recently replaced Andrey Minyaev (Андрей Миняев), as Director of the Legal Department at the Russian Ministry of Sport.

Vasilchenko is also Deputy Head of an Interdepartmental Working Group on interactions between government agencies and RUSADA headed by Russia’s Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov. Established by a 13 June 2018 Order (N 533) of the Ministry of Sports, the Group is designed to coordinate the activities of the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Customs Service and RUSADA to combat doping in sport. The provisions of that Order give the members of the Working Group the right to request any information ‘on violations of anti-doping rules, including administrative or criminal liability in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation’.

Putin’s view

“I think that this is not only unfair, but does not represent a common sense solution”, said Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, at his annual press conference, reported TASS. “The decision was taken against athletes to participate under a neutral flag at the last Olympics, and now we are being punished for the same thing again. This does not happen in any legal system. The WADA decision is contrary to the Olympic Charter. If you have no complaints about the Russian Olympic Committee, then the team should compete under its own flag.

“Unfortunately, the decision is again political in nature. Any punishment must be individual. If somebody is specifically caught for something then quite naturally and right they should be [punished]. But if the vast majority of athletes are clean, how can sanctions be imposed on them?”

Litmus test

Detail from RUSADA’s 2018 Annual Report…

It is significant that Ganus and Pakhnotskaya did not participate in the Supervisory Board’s decision to appeal WADA’s sanction, and that they have declined to comment. Ganus was one of the first to highlight that WADA had discovered that ‘thousands’ of manipulations were made to the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January this year. Punishing Russia for this manipulation of Laboratory data is not the same as punishing Russia for manipulation of the doping control process, as Putin argues.

Both Ganus and Pakhnotskaya were excluded from a decision that was made by RUSADA’s founders, the Russian Olympic movement. Two Supervisory Board members (Isinbayeva and Hrychikov) who might be expected to vote against appealing WADA’s decision ‘abstained’ from voting. The Olympic movement appears very confident that RUSADA’s Executive Committee will approve a decision its own Directors were not allowed to participate in. From where does that confidence stem?

Pavel Kolobkov

Pavel Kolobkov, Russia’s Minister for Sport, has already publicly criticised Ganus for talking to the press rather than cooperating with the Ministry of Sport. Ganus has never been openly critical of the Ministry of Sport, despite such comments. “How can I be controlled by the Russian State if I have been involved in many, many cases and it is easy to see and monitor my entire activity?” Ganus told The Sports Integrity Initiative at Play The Game in Colorado Springs. 

The answer perhaps lies in Order N 533, which mandates regular meetings between the Russian authorities and RUSADA to discuss investigations. Although almost every anti-doping agency has similar information sharing agreements with State authorities, only Russian State authorities have been found to be involved in manipulations of the doping control process.

The timing of the Order is interesting. It was promulgated three years after RUSADA was suspended, shortly before it was fully reinstated in September 2018 following the withdrawal of UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) supervision of the doping control process in Russia.

But perhaps Ganus is wise not to be critical. The Biography of Russia’s Deputy Minister of Sport, Igor Sidorkevich (Игорь Сидоркевич), shows that he was an Agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor to Russia’s KGB – from 2001 to 2006.

WADA found that the IT Manager of the Moscow Laboratory, Evgeniy Mochalov (Евгений Мочалов), was responsible for manipulation of the LIMS that remained inside the Moscow Laboratory. Its Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Team found that Mochalov, the husband of current Moscow Laboratory Director Elena Mochalova (Елена Мочалова), carried out such manipulations from his employment in October 2016 through to January 2019.

It has been reported that Mochalov has gone missing. In 2016, former RUSADA Director Nikita Kamaev and Founding Chairman of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinev, died within two weeks of each other. The two had discussed collaborating with the International Network of Doping Research (INDR) on an exposé style book discussing doping. Is history about to repeat itself?

Putin labelled WADA’s decision to hold Russia to account for manipulating the Moscow Laboratory data as a political decision. There is truth in that statement, but not in the way that Putin intended. WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) concluded that RUSADA’s work is ‘effective in contributing to the fight against doping in Russian sport’, and recommended that it be allowed to continue operations during its four year period of non-compliance. 

It is politically convenient for WADA and for the Russian authorities to paint RUSADA as an independent anti-doping authority, as this allows it to continue anti-doping work in one of the world’s biggest counties. But the above shows the reality – it is the Russian Olympic Movement and Ministry of Sport that are pulling RUSADA’s strings.

As such, Christmas Eve will be RUSADA’s litmus test. An ideal situation for both Russia and WADA would be for RUSADA’s Executive Committee to approve the Supervisory Board’s recommendation, under protest from Ganus and Pakhnotskaya. This would allow RUSADA to continue anti-doping testing under the control of the Russian authorities, whilst WADA can claim that Ganus and Pakhnotskaya’s opposition underlines RUSADA’s independence from those same authorities. 

This is where Pozdnyakov’s confidence stems from. Any other outcome doesn’t suit WADA or Russia, and the lack of a testing agency in Russia would make participation of is athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics problematic. As such, any other outcome would indeed be unexpected.

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