Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has denied that a interview given by its Acting Director, Anna Antseliovich, amounted to recognition of institutionalised doping in Russia. ‘During the conversation between Antseliovich and journalist Rebecca Ruiz, a remark was made that the Report, published on 9 December, Richard McLaren refused the words “state system of doping” and used the phrase “institutional conspiracy”, thus eliminating the possible involvement of the country’s top leadership’, read a statement, referring to the Independent Person (IP) Report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). ‘Unfortunately by taking these words out of context, Rebecca Ruiz has created the impression that the leadership of RUSADA recognises the existence of institutional doping schemes in Russia.’
RUSADA said that it had no authority for the recognition or denial of a system of institutionalised doping in Russia, as the matter is subject to an ongoing inquiry by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (CKP). “There was no state-supported system of doping in sport – none”, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko in a 23 December Russian Ministry of Sport statement. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin repeated the denial on 27 December – the same day that the New York Times published its interview with Antseliovich.
An Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission (HOAK) was established on 22 July to investigate the allegations made in the first WADA IP Report, published on 18 July. On 1 December, the CKP sent a request for permission to interview Rodchenkov to US authorities. “I am confident that this investigation will enable us to identify all the culprits and press criminal charges in court, provided there is substantial evidence”, said Ilya Lazutov, Deputy Chairman of the CKP, in a speech. “Unfortunately, so far we haven’t received any response from any of the international organisations we have contacted. Still, we hope to get their response. In fact, I’d like to use this opportunity to appeal to our foreign colleagues and ask them to respond to our inquiries and provide us with the documents we need to proceed with an unbiased investigation.”
“As for Grigory Rodchenkov, I should mention that in 2011 he was the subject of a criminal investigation for illegal acquisition, possession and distribution of PEDs”, continued Lazutov. “In the course of our investigation, we are uncovering more and more facts showing that for a long period of time Grigory Rodchenkov abused his office and pursued financial gain by persuading athletes to use doping. A number of athletes (whose names I won’t mention today) have directly stated that Rodchenkov persuaded them to take substances which were unfamiliar to them but which later were revealed as doping. Also, as we proceed with the investigation, we have a growing number of questions regarding Rodchenkov’s activities. These apply to Rodchenkov himself and some other people who may have been involved in criminal activities. I can’t get into details today because this is classified information. All I can say is, this is not limited to the crimes that have been uncovered earlier; there may have been other criminal activities that Rodchenkov was involved in.”
“In conclusion, we understand today that if the head of the Anti-Doping Centre was a person of questionable character, to put it mildly, it is quite possible that he had conceived, organised and headed up a criminal group”, continued Lazutov. “This is why we don’t understand how anyone can trust the testimony of a person who was directly involved in such criminal activities and treat it as evidence. This is why the Investigative Committee will continue with its efforts to collect real, material evidence and establish the truth.”
In the interview with the New York Times, Vitaly Smirnov, Chairman of the HOAK, said that the Fancy Bears hacks into the emails of WADA and other anti-doping agencies provided evidence that other countries had been given an advantage over Russia. “Have you seen the Fancy Bear records?” he asked the newspaper. “Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries”.
However, as The Sports Integrity Initiative has consistently pointed out, the existence of a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for an athlete to use a substance that features on WADA’s Prohibited List does not indicate any wrongdoing. While the Fancy Bears leaks of confidential communications between anti-doping organisations and athletes have raised concerns over potential misuse of TUEs, the vast majority of the leaks indicate that the ADOs concerned are doing their job correctly.
In contrast, evidence exists within the McLaren Report that directly implicates Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Mutko, who denied state involvement in doping on 23 December – as described above. Mutko was replaced as Minister for Sport by Pavel Kolobkov in October, however he remains as President of the Russian football federation, the Russia 2018 World Cup and is a member of the FIFA Council.
‘The IP is aware of at least 1 foreign footballer playing in the Russian League had that benefit of a SAVE order’, reads Part One of the WADA IP Report. ‘That SAVE decision was made by Minister Mutko and not Deputy Minister [Yuri] Nagornykh. Email evidence available to the IP shows that the SAVE decision for the football players was the final decision of “VL.” VL is the first name and patronymic name initials of the Minister of Sport, Vitaly Leontiyevich Mutko, who is also the President of the Russian Football Federation.’
There are a number of references to orders given by ‘VL’ in an evidential package of emails published with Part Two of the WADA IP Report (PDF below). For instance, an email sent by Rodchenkov on 17 August 2014 reads: ‘Football – do not touch. The decision of the VL to work!’ A reply reads: ‘lt is only A1105? For football players we are waiting for the decision of VL?’
It is interesting to note the comments by Richard McLaren in the New York Times article that Russian officials are playing a “vocabulary game”. It could be argued that Russia is playing a political game.
Vitaly Mutko, who is alleged to be at the head of the state-sanctioned doping system outlined in both WADA IP Reports, has been promoted to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. Given that Mutko is President of the Russian football federation, a FIFA Council member and President of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, Russia perhaps has little choice but to make such a bold move despite the allegations against him.
If it were to acknowledge the involvement of the state and the Russian Ministry of Sport, then it would also be acknowledging the involvement of Mutko, as he is directly implicated in the WADA IP Reports. To dismiss Mutko might be seen as an admission of his involvement in the state-sanctioned doping system alleged in the WADA IP Reports. Anything other than supporting Mutko could jeopardise his position on the FIFA Council, and could endanger the country’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup.
Last month, Russia passed legislation criminalising those who induce athletes to dope. Despite promising an “unbiased investigation”, the Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission (HOAK) labelled Rodchenkov as being of “questionable character”, as well as doubting the evidence he gave to both WADA IP Reports. It is also interesting to note that although mentioning Rodchenkov’s 2011 arrest, Lazutov does not discuss allegations that a deal was agreed for records of his arrest to ‘disappear’, in exchange for his management of the doping programme in place for the Sochi 2014 Olympics.
It remains to be seen whether Russia will attempt to use its new laws against Rodchenkov. Concerns remain that the new legislation will seek to punish individual scapegoats such as Rodchenkov, rather than to unearth and punish those further up the command chain. At first glance, HOAK’s investigation does appear to be concentrating on Rodchenkov rather than investigating remaining issues with anti-doping in Russia such as:
• Why all Russian samples still have to be re-routed via Moscow, despite suspension of RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory;
• Closed cities being utilised to hold qualifying events in order to prevent athlete testing;
• Why the CKP is still preventing access to the samples stored at the Moscow laboratory.
• State-sanctioned doping, as outlined in Part Two of the WADA IP Report.
Smirnov’s comments about the Fancy Bears leaks are similar to the allegations that Fancy Bears make regarding alleged advantages enjoyed by certain national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) through alleged abuse of the TUE system. WADA initially claimed that Fancy Bears are Russian. If the organisation were proved to be under control of the Russian state, that could provide another nail in the coffin for Russian participation in international sport.
In contrast to McLaren’s comments, actions speak louder than words in Russia’s case. Russia appears to be still pursuing a policy of denying state-sanctioned doping in the hope that the allegations made in the WADA IP Report will not affect its international standing in sport. Sport must decide if it will continue to accept this standpoint.
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