21st September 2020

RUSADA denies responsibility for Sotskova leak

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has denied responsibility for leaking details of an anti-doping investigation to the media, which reported that a ten year ban had been issued to figure skater Maria Sotskova. ‘RUSADA’s current employees strictly adhere to the norms of the All Russian Anti-Doping Rules, according to which the identity of any athlete or other person who is accused by RUSADA of a possible violation of anti-doping rules cannot be publicly disclosed by RUSADA until notification is sent to the athlete’, read a statement. ‘Neither RUSADA nor the Russian sporting federations or their officials have the right to comment publicly on any pending case. RUSADA carried out an internal investigation into these publications. No violations were found by the current RUSADA employees. It has been established that RUSADA was in no way involved in the disclosure of information.’

A source told Russian State news agency TASS that Sotskova had been issued with a ten year ban for two anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs). Firstly, the source alleges that Sotskova had ‘forged’ a medical certificate in order to explain ‘whereabouts’ violations, an ADRV similar to that involved in the Danil Lysenko case which resulted in the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) being sanctioned for assisting in document forgery. Secondly, the source alleges that Sotskova has returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for a prohibited substance.

Under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI), which is mandatory for Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) that have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code, ADOs must establish a Test Distribution Plan (TDP) including a Registered Testing Pool (RTP). ADOs are given discretion as to who should be included in that RTP, but it should include elite athletes from which the ADO plans to collect more than three out-of-competition (OOC) samples per year. 

Under the ISTI, athletes included in the RTP are required to provide ‘whereabouts’ information for each quarter of the year three months in advance, indicating where they will be available for testing for one hour in each 24 hour day (although the locations can be later amended). This is in addition to provision of overnight location and training schedules.

Sotskova and the Russian figure skating federation (FSR) have not commented on whether she has been notified of any ADRVs by RUSADA. In July this year, Sotskova announced her retirement via Instagram. A translation of the statement reveals that she had been assessed by psychologists and had been suffering with health issues. She recently posted ‘thank you all for your support’ on her Instagram page, before setting it to private. 

Questions therefore remain as to why an athlete who is retiring for personal reasons would get involved with document forgery in order to escape a sanction. As such, any eventual case against Sotskova for ‘whereabouts’ violations is likely to turn on when she stopped skating and whether she was diligent with her ‘whereabouts’ requirements. 

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