Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The Taskforce appointed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) yesterday decided that the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has not met the reinstatement conditions for Russian athletes to return to international competition. In February, the IAAF set six ‘milestones’ that RusAF must meet, in addition to the original Verification Criteria set by the IAAF in December 2015.
In yesterday’s Report (PDF below) to the IAAF Council, the Taskforce confirmed that most of the original Verification Criteria have been met. However, RusAF has not met ‘milestones’ such as providing a written report on why it has not been able to enforce suspensions imposed on coaches, and has not provided an ‘appropriate official response’ to the Independent Person (IP) Reports compiled by Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The IAAF Task Force pointed out that ‘material progress’ had been made in meeting the Verification Criteria and additional ‘milestones’. It said that it has not been advised of any problems with the testing of Russian athletes since April 2017. In April 2017, it said that it ‘has not encountered any problems in its testing of Russian athletes since February 2017’.
The Report also pointed out that WADA has come to an agreement with Russian authorities on ‘closed cities’, where military or nuclear facilities are located and access is restricted to the ordinary population. A year ago, a WADA report outlined how doping control officers (DCOs) were having difficulty in testing athletes located in ‘closed cities’, and that National Championships were often held in such cities.
It has now been agreed that if an athlete declares a ‘closed city’ to which access has not been granted on their ‘whereabouts’ form – which indicates where athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) will be available for testing – then that will be considered a ‘filing failure’. Three filing failures in a year constitutes an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).
It has also been agreed that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) will monitor athletes that are not in the RTP but locate themselves in ‘closed cities’ that DCOs cannot access. It will attempt to target test such athletes, or even move them into the RTP so that their location in such a ‘closed city’ will constitute a filing failure.
The Task Force also appeared satisfied that steps had been taken to cultivate the clean sport movement championed by athlete Andrey Dmitriev, who was forced to flee Russia against his wishes, after secretly filming banned coaches training athletes in January. ‘Whereas previously, other athletes were laughing at the Clean Sport Movement […] that has stopped, because they have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve top results without doping’, reads the Report.
It also points out that steps have been taken to ensure that RUSADA is fully independent. In late June, RUSADA apparently changed its Statutes to ensure that its Chair and Vice Chair are independent. As a result of this, two-time Olympic pole vault champion Elena Isinbaeva has stepped down as Chair of the RUSADA Supervisory Board and has been replaced by Alexander Ivlev, the head of Ernst & Young Russia. A new Code of Ethics has also been implemented, containing conflict of interest provisions.
However, issues still remain. The most pertinent of these appears to be the production of the two Reports. The IAAF has asked for a report into why RusAF has not been able to enforce provisional suspensions on coaches; and for an ‘appropriate official response’ to the WADA IP Reports.
According to the Report, RusAF ‘understands the importance of ensuring that no RusAF coaches or athletes are working with Dr. Portugalov, Mr Chegin, or any of the other coaches or athletes who are serving a doping ban, and has taken various steps aimed at achieving this’. RusAF has apparently identified provisions within the Russian Labour Code that will allow it to suspend the employment of RusAF coaches who have been provisionally suspended on doping charges.
Dr. Portugalov was sanctioned with a lifetime ban in March this year, after being implicated in WADA’s first November 2015 Independent Commission (IC) report as being involved in covering up positive tests for money. In March this year, it was alleged that he was still working with Russian ice-hockey players.
Viktor Chegin was sanctioned with a lifetime ban by RusAF in March last year. Over 20 athletes trained by the race-walking coach between 2005 and 2015 are understood to have been disqualified for doping. Chegin was provisionally suspended on 25 August 2014, yet RUSADA did not launch an official investigation until 15 July 2015. RusAF did not remove him as Russia’s race walking coach until 16 July 2015.
Chegin was spotted coaching athletes at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August 2014, whilst provisionally suspended by RUSADA. Several of Chegin’s suspended athletes – including Sergey Baulkin, Elena Lashmanova and Ekaterina Medvedeva – were spotted (here and here) competing at the Mordovian race walking championships in December 2014. RusAF attempted to claim that the photos were from a 2012 event, however detective work by Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee uncovered that the shoes and uniforms worn in the photos were not available in 2012.
Chegin was also filmed training Russian athletes on 27 April 2016 in the town of Adler, just 10km from Sochi. Olga Kaniskina, Sergey Kirdyapkin and Elena Lashmanova, who all signed an extraordinary letter of support for Chegin earlier that month, were pictured at the training session.
Dr. Portugalov, Vladimir Kazarin, Alex Melnikov and Vladimir Mokhnev were not added to WADA’s Prohibited Association List until 10 April this year, 17 months after such action was recommended in the first IC Report. WADA argued that they couldn’t be added to the List, since they had only been provisionally suspended pending the outcome of their case. Footage suggests that Kazarin was still working with elite Russian athletes under the jurisdiction RusAF in January this year; as does footage of Mokhnev working with athletes filmed in March 2016.
The IAAF Taskforce appears to have accepted RusAF’s argument that it was powerless to suspend the employment of coaches who had been provisionally suspended on doping charges. However, as the Chegin case outlined above illustrates, RusAF had no difficulty in terminating his employment as national team coach in July 2015, almost a year before he was sanctioned by RusAF. As such, RusAF’s report into why provisional suspensions were not enforced ought to make interesting reading.
The second report required from RusAF is an ‘appropriate official response’ to the findings of Richard McLaren in the WADA IP Reports. Last month, the Russian Federal Government has recently approved the National Anti-Doping Plan (NADP), the English version of which codifies Russia’s non-acceptance that institutionalised doping had ever taken place in the country.
WADA insists that this issue has been addressed, however Russian Minister for Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, appeared to deny State involvement. “No, nobody is talking about State participation”, said Kolobkov, in an interview published by the Ministry of Sport. “Even McLaren is no longer talking about State participation. There are no requirements regarding recognition of State participation”.
At the WADA Foundation Board meeting in November, Richard McLaren, who composed the WADA IP Reports, clarified that ‘State-sponsored doping’ has a different meaning within Russia. He had therefore “redefined his terminology” following a conversation with Russian officials by the time the second WADA IP Report was published in December 2016 to only mention ‘institutionalised doping’ rather than ‘State-sponsored doping’, which in Russia is understood to involve Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle.
Kolobkov has told the Task Force that an official response to the WADA IP Reports would be given in the ‘coming weeks’. Given the above, this should also make for interesting reading.
The problem for RusAF is that Russia has taken a political position that institutional doping never existed in Russia. It has promoted the Minister for Sport in charge during the period in question to become Deputy Prime Minister, despite Vitaly Mutko being directly implicated as covering up the positive test of a Russian footballer.
Mutko is also President of the Football Union of Russia (FUR) and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Russia therefore cannot change tack now and admit that doping was institutional, as to do so might jeopardise its hosting of the World Cup.
The Taskforce appears to gloss over many issues. For example, it mentions that there have been no issues with testing athletes in Russia since April 2017. Yet in April 2017, a previous Report mentioned that there were no issues identified with testing Russians since February 2017. Does this mean that issues with testing Russians were identified in April? Or does it mean that no issues have been identified since February and if so, why did the Report not just say that?
Secondly, the Report mentions that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has been given access to athlete biological passport (ABP) samples that have been screened at the Moscow laboratory. Yet it doesn’t mention the urine samples that are still under the protection of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR), which launched an investigation on 8 June last year. When that investigation is to be completed appears to be a secret.
In short, RusAF is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t throw its hands up and admit that everything within Richard McLaren’s Reports is accurate, as to do so would throw Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister under the bus. Yet until it finds a way to properly explain its actions without doping this, progress will continue to be slow.
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