28 March 2019

RusAF reinstatement: a window into whether Russian sport has reformed

Yesterday, the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) held a meeting in Oslo with the Task Force appointed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to reassess its progress in fulfilling the two remaining requirements for reinstatement of its athletes into international competition. The IAAF had also asked RusAF for explanations as to why officials that had worked with the national team prior to 2015, when sport first responded to reports of Russian State doping, were still working with Russian athletes. RusAF’s response provides a fascinating insight into whether its suspension has forced it to reform.

Pre-2015 officials still working with national team

RusAF clarified that of 94 coaches and specialists featuring on the national team training centre list, 21 are coaches that worked with Russian national team prior to 2015. Journalists for ARD had found that of the 94 officials that feature on the list, 63 were working with the Russian national team prior to 2015. At yesterday’s meeting Dmitry Shlyakhtin, RusAF’s President, didn’t deny that figure. But he told the IAAF Task Force that the other 42 pre-2015 officials were administrators, specialists, doctors and therapists.

Earlier this month, the IAAF decided to uphold RusAF’s suspension because it had not yet met the costs of its suspension; and because the IAAF has yet to receive 1,000 samples taken from Russian athletes between 2012 and August 2015, as well as detailed analytical data relating to the samples. It also sought clarification from RusAF regarding allegations that Valentin Maslakov (Валентин Маслаков), Head Coach of the Russian athletics team from 2007-2015, was again working with athletes.

The investigation by reporters for ARD’s SportsChau (video below) also found that Maslakov remains as Russia’s 400m national team coach, despite officials telling journalists that this wasn’t correct. Maslakov was the coach in charge of the women’s 4x400m relay team that won Gold at the Moscow 2013 IAAF World Championships. The team’s Gold was disqualified, and all four members were later sanctioned with doping bans. It is understood that two members of that team were personally coached by Maslakov, who is mentioned as covering up doping by Russian whistleblowers Yuliya Stepanova and Vitaly Stepanov in the video below.

At the start of March, RusAF admitted that Maslakov is the Senior Coach of Russia’s 400m team. “With regards to Valentin Maslakov, I really hope that I was able to give explanations today, after which the question regarding the legality of his coaching will not be so acute”, said Shlyakhtin in RusAF’s statement following yesterday’s Oslo meeting. 

Whether the IAAF Task Force will accept Shlyakhtin’s explanations about the continuing role of coaches and officials involved with Russian athletics prior to 2015 remains to be seen. “This runs counter to the assurances the Taskforce has received from RusAF that it is disassociating itself from the old regime”, said Rune Andersen, President of the IAAF Taskforce, responding to ARD’s video at the IAAF Council’s press conference at the start of this month. It would appear that despite Shlyakhtin’s assurances, little has changed following the Oslo meeting.

The two reinstatement criteria: Doha doubts

RusAF also clarified that it will send payment regarding the costs of its suspension, which is states is US$3.22 million plus additional costs from 1 January to 31 March 2019, at the end of April. The IAAF is also waiting to receive 1,000 samples taken from Russian athletes between 2012 and August 2015, as well as analytical data relating to the samples, from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA has already announced that although it has completed the extraction of data relating to the samples from the Moscow Laboratory, the data could take between two and three months to authenticate. It made this announcement at the start of March, which takes us to May/June before WADA completes authentication of the data.

In its Report provided to the IAAF Council meeting at the start of this month (PDF below), the IAAF Taskforce outlined that its Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) must analyse that data, determine which samples need to be extracted and re-analysed, and which athletes have a case to answer, before it can recommend that RusAF be reinstated. ‘Depending on when exactly it receives the data from WADA, the AIU will make every effort to complete that task prior to the June Council meeting, but it cannot give any assurances in this regard’, read the Report.

Perhaps the reason that it is unwilling to give any assurances is due to the tight timescales involved. WADA could take until June to verify the data from the Moscow Laboratory, and the next IAAF Council meeting when RusAF’s reinstatement will be considered is also in June. As such, whether the IAAF Taskforce will be able to recommend to the IAAF Council that RusAF be reinstated prior to that meeting remains subject to doubts. And the 2019 Doha IAAF World Championships begin on 28 September… 


Screenshot of Russia’s Ministry of Sport’s internet site, showing Kravtsov as Head of the CSP…

No prizes for guessing the phrase to which this subhead refers. Shlyakhtin has not denied the allegations put to him that officials and coaches involved in the State doping programme are still involved with managing athletes that fall under RusAF’s jurisdiction, including national teams. In addition, other Russian officials still head major organisations tasked with preparing Russian athletes for international competition. 

The Sports Integrity Initiative has previously outlined how Alexander Kravtsov remains as Head of the Centre of Sports Preparation (CSP) for the National Teams of Russia, a post he has held since 2009 (as this page details). The CSP is a subordinate organisation to Russia’s Ministry of Sport, and lists Kravtsov as head on this page, last updated today.

Kravtsov replaced Mikhail Prokhorov as President of the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) in May 2014, and is implicated in an affidavit provided by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, as initiating discussions about half the Russian biathlon team being under the control of Stanislav ‘Stastik’ Dmitriev, a source of Erythropoietin (EPO) for the Russian national team. Dr. Rodchenkov also mentions that Kravtsov was chief of Russia’s Olympic delegation at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, and told him about the positive tests of Irina Starykh and Ekaterina Iourieva for rEPO ahead of the Games (click here to download decision). 

Detail on Kravtsov from Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov’s affidavit…

The continuing role of Kravtsov in an organisation designed to prepare the Russian national teams for competition may also concern the IAAF Taskforce. In Austria and Germany, investigations are taking place into allegations of doping in cross county skiing and other sports that have connections to biathlon. The investigations involve autologous blood doping, spurred by Johannes Dürr’s admission that he had used blood transfusions, EPO and growth hormones. Dürr was sanctioned after testing positive for EPO at Sochi 2014.

Yesterday Yuri Ganus, Director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), appeared to suggest that Russia cannot compete with the likes of the USA and Germany in terms of pharmacological preparations for elite sport. “Doping is a professional pharmacological activity”, said Ganus at a media conference, reported Championat. “We cannot compete with the likes of the USA and Germany in the market of pharmacological preparation”. 

On 20 September last year, a compromise was reached by WADA to reinstate RUSADA, despite Russia arguably not having met the conditions it specified for reinstatement. For many, the entire point of RUSADA’s suspension was to force Russian sport to reform. Given the evidence above, whether that compromise turns out to be an own goal remains to be seen.

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