6th April 2018

RUSADA’s 2017 test list underlines the catch 22 of anti-doping

Testing figures published by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) have revealed that seventeen Russian athletes were tested over ten times by RUSADA in 2017. As might be expected, many of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OARs) that competed in individual sports at PyeongChang 2018 were targeted for numerous tests by RUSADA during 2017. However, the figures appear to indicate that there may be a testing gap within Russian football.

The list only contains tests carried out by RUSADA or UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), which prior to June 2017 was conducting testing of athletes within Russia due to the ongoing suspension of RUSADA. It doesn’t contain information on additional tests carried out by international federations on Russian athletes.

PyeongChang 2018

The list of athletes who were tested ten times or more by RUSADA does not include any members of the OAR ice hockey team that took the gold medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. However, as many of the team compete in the North American professional leagues, which are not signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code, this is perhaps understandable. Sixteen year old Alina Zagitova, who won gold in the Ladies Singles Figure Skating, was tested three times by RUSADA during 2017.

Pavel Kolobkov

Bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva, who tested positive for trimetazidine at PyeongChang 2018, was tested nine times by RUSADA during 2017. However curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii, who tested positive for meldonium during the Games, was tested only once by RUSADA during 2017.

The World Curling Federation (WCF) confirmed that it had tested Krushelnitckii more than once during 2017. As such, the claim made by Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov that Krushelnitckii has been tested between six and eight times is likely to be accurate.

Russia 2018

It would appear that such a claim cannot be made in football. Although the list includes 111 footballers, possible members of the Russian team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup have not been tested by RUSADA during 2017. And the international federation of football associations (FIFA) has only confirmed that the Russian national team was tested at the 2017 Confederations Cup.

The final teams for the 2018 FIFA World Cup have yet to be decided. Potential Russian team members that do not feature on RUSADA’s list of tested athletes are as follows:

• Fyodor Kudryashov;
• Yuri Zhirkov;
• Dmitriy Kombarov;
• Igor Smolnikov;
• Denis Glushakov;
• Aleksandr Samedov;
• Aleksandr Yerokhin;
• Denis Cheryshev;
• Roman Zobnin;
• Anton Zabolotny;
• Viktor Vasin;
• Georgi Dzhikiya.

Others, such as the team’s main goalscorer Fyodor Smolov, have been subjected to just one RUSADA test. The international federation of football associations (FIFA) has insisted that every player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be subject to anti-doping tests, and it previously outlined that every player at the 2017 Confederations Cup was tested, with no adverse analytical findings (AAFs).

Testing is the responsibility of RUSADA within Russia and FIFA as the international federation. Players that competed for FC Zenit, Krasnodar, CSKA Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow, and Spartak Moscow in competitions administered by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) may also have been selected for random testing. However it is possible that for some national team players, the only anti-doping test they faced during 2017 was at the Confederations Cup.

In November last year, FIFA said it was still investigating allegations of doping within Russian football, but could not confirm if it is investigating allegations that a separate sample swapping system was in operation within Russian football. At the end of last year, two FIFA officials had their contracts terminated whilst investigating allegations of systemic doping of Russian footballers.

Professor Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s former Chief Medical Officer, told The Guardian that he was given no warning when his contract was terminated in November 2016. The newspaper earlier reported that Cornel Borbély was investigating doping in Russian football when it was decided not to nominate him for re-election as Chairman of FIFA’s Ethics Committee.

The WADA IP Report found that Mutko ordered the covering up of a footballer’s positive test…

At the end of last year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko stepped down as Chairman of Russia 2018, after stepping aside as President of the Football Union of Russia (FUR) for six months in order to concentrate on an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against a life ban from the Olympics. Mutko was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in October 2016, after Richard McLaren published his first Independent Person (IP) Report into allegations of Russian doping, which implicated him as covering up the positive test of a footballer.

Mutko welcomed the appointment of Gianni Infantino as FIFA President…

Mutko was President of the FUR from 2011 until 2017. He was Minister of Sport from 2008 until 2016, and was appointed to the FIFA Council in 2009. FIFA therefore tolerated political interference in football for six years, in an apparent direct contradiction of Article 14 of its Code of Ethics, which requires political neutrality from those involved in governing football.

Rio 2016 

The list is also interesting when looking at medal winners that competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics. It appears that RUSADA has not tested a number of gold medal winners across a number of Olympic sports during 2017.

This includes members of the fencing squad; members of the women’s handball team; members of the women’s rhythmic gymnastics team; as well as individual gold medal winners in sports such as wrestling and judo.

Boxer Misha Aloyan, who lost a silver medal in the boxing after being sanctioned for returning an AAF for Tuaminoheptane, was tested three times during 2017. He has turned professional and in February 2018, won the WBA International Bantamweight title.

Catch 22

As the testing list has been published by RUSADA, it is unlikely to contain any smoking gun that could further incriminate Russian sport in allegations of wrongdoing. However, the list does emphasise that the current testing system needs work before it can guarantee a level playing field to athletes from outside of Russia.

The catch 22 of the current anti-doping system is that if a national anti-doping organisation is judged to be inadequate in testing athletes, it is suspended, leaving no method of testing athletes in that country. This is what has happened in Russia.

For athletes to be confident that a level playing field is in place, the reaccreditation of an ethical RUSADA is key. Until that happens, athletes will suspect that Russians have an advantage, because their national anti-doping agency is suspended and has been unable to test them.

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