10 October 2019

RUSADA denies involvement in LIMS database manipulation

Yuri Ganus

Yuri Ganus, the Director General of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), has denied that the Agency was involved in manipulations of the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), after Russian media suggested it may have been involved. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) confirmed that it had received a response from the Russian authorities to its questions regarding inconsistencies between the data it retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January, and the LIMS database provided to it by whistleblowers in November 2017. 

RUSADA clarified that as it had received a copy of WADA’s questions, Ganus was able to tell Der Spiegel about WADA’s assertion that ‘thousands’ of changes to the data were made, with the most recent dating from December 2018 and January 2019. It added that as RUSADA has no legal ties to the Laboratory, it couldn’t have manipulated the LIMS data.

In an Open Letter, Ganus criticised the ‘avalanche of lies’ behind which he argues that the real reasons for the failure of the anti-doping campaign in Russia are hidden. The letter is critical of the Russian media for suggesting that RUSADA had a role in manipulating the LIMS data.

‘The new RUSADA never had, does not have, and will not have any relation to the formation, protection and – even more so – changing the electronic database of the Moscow Laboratory’, writes Ganus. ‘The new RUSADA works with at least 13 anti-doping laboratories around the world accredited by WADA, of which five we are actively engaged with. There is no access to their electronic databases, which we do not have and cannot have. Therefore, it is not necessary to blame RUSADA as the cause of a new impending crisis.’

Blame game

The Moscow Laboratory was sealed off by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR – or Sledcom) in June 2016, after it launched a criminal investigation into manipulation of the doping control process within Russia. As such, the samples and the LIMS database have been under the protection of an agency of the Russian State for over three years. 

The SKR hasn’t completed its investigation. It has yet to respond to repeated questions from The Sports Integrity Initiative about when its investigation will be complete. 

In September, the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) pointed out that if the LIMS data were found to be tampered with, WADA’s only method of legal recourse was to re-suspend RUSADA, ‘even though there is no evidence that RUSADA itself is in any way involved’. This is why WADA’s initial requirement for the Russian authorities to acknowledge, in writing, the role of the Russian State in subverting doping controls was crucial. WADA changed its requirements, and reinstated RUSADA even though these new requirements were not met, as this article details.

Vitaly Mutko

Russia has never acknowledged the State’s role in subverting the doping control system. It is not likely to, as this would implicate its Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Mutko, who was Minister for Sport at the time. 

RUSADA’s denial of any involvement points towards SKR/Sledcom, which had sole access to the LIMS database and samples for over three years. As the SKR is an agency of the Russian State, we have now come full circle. If Russia admits that the LIMS data was manipulated, it risks acknowledging the State’s role in manipulation of the doping control process.

It appears increasingly likely that WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) will recommend that RUSADA is again suspended. ‘If at any point in this process it is determined that the Analytical Data provided have been tampered with, or that samples requested have not been provided for re-analysis, the CRC will come back to the ExCo without delay with a recommendation that WADA pursue stringent sanctions’, reads a 17 January recommendation from the CRC.

Annex B, Article B.3.1 of WADA’s International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories (ISCCS) sets out that such sanctions could include suspension; removal of event hosting rights; and suspension from the Olympics. That Tokyo 2020 is not far away did not escape the attention of Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). 

‘The situation is very serious’, he wrote in a 23 September statement. ‘Given the short period of three weeks, our organisations responsible for transferring the testing databased must either conclusively refute suspicions of any manipulations on the part of Russia, or take comprehensive measures to identify the persons involved in this unpleasant situation’. 

WADA and its CRC have yet to comment on the response received to its questions about manipulations to the LIMS database. However, as the SKR has previous claimed that the LIMS database given to WADA may be unreliable, this appears a likely line it may pursue. If this is accurate, we are back to stalemate once again. 

Ganus and Mariya Lasitskene have attempted to highlight that State and sporting officials may be behind Russia’s continued exile from international sport. Perhaps if the Russian media and public listened to them, then that stalemate might break.

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