2 June 2019

RusAF reinstatement unlikely, irrespective of Lysenko’s whereabouts failures

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is investigating the explanation provided by Danil Lysenko for a whereabouts anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), after The Sunday Times alleged that Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) officials were complicit in forging documentation to assist the high jumper. However irrespective of the allegations against Lysenko, the reinstatement of RusAF at an IAAF Council meeting in Monaco next weekend looks unlikely.

‘The AIU confirms it is investigating a matter relating to the explanation provided by a Russian athlete in defence of a whereabouts violation in 2018’, read a statement emailed by the AIU. ‘The investigation is on-going, and the AIU will not speculate on its outcome nor provide any further comment’.

The newspaper’s allegations were denied by Dmitry Shlyakhtin (Дмитрий Шляхтин), RusAF’s President. “The Sunday Times article, in my opinion, is what happens when the desires of journalists are substituted for the reality”, he told State news agency TASS. “The only source of objective and truthful information regarding the case of Lysenko is that the AIU is currently investigating. Let’s wait for the results.”

Athletes who fall under RusAF’s jurisdiction are currently banned from international competition. However such athletes can apply to compete internationally as an Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA), if they can demonstrate that they were not directly implicated in Russian State doping; and that they have been sufficiently tested. Lysenko was granted ANA status on 19 July 2017, however this was revoked on 3 August last year. 

‘The decision, following information provided by AIU and following the AIU decision to charge and provisionally suspend the athlete, has been made as a result of Mr Lysenko’s failure to provide whereabouts information as required under the IAAF Anti-Doping Rules and Regulations and to make himself available for out-of-competition testing by the AIU’, read a statement. Lysenko features on page two of the AIU’s list of provisional suspensions, which confirms that a charge has been issued for ‘whereabouts failures’.

Under Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, ‘whereabouts failures’ comprise ‘Any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures, as defined in the International Standard for Testing and Investigations [ISTI], within a twelve-month period by an Athlete in a Registered Testing Pool’. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) ISTI, which is mandatory for Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) that have adopted the Code, ADOs must establish a Test Distribution Plan (TDP) including a Registered Testing Pool (RTP). 

ADOs – such as RusAF – are given discretion as to who should be included in that RTP, but it should include elite athletes from which they plan 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 each quarter of the year through WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management (ADAMS) system, indicating in advance where they will be available for testing for one hour each day (although the locations can be later amended). Under Article 2.4 of the Code, ‘any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures’ in 12 months constitutes an ADRV.

WADA’s ‘whereabouts’ requirements are designed to enable out of competition tests to be conducted on elite athletes without notice, at periods during the season when they might be likely to be using prohibited substances. The theory is that ADOs such as RusAF would include athletes such as Lysenko in their RTP in order to demonstrate their commitment to clean sport.

The IAAF Council meets in Monaco on 8/9 June 2019, where it will consider whether RusAF has met two conditions required for its IAAF membership to be reinstated, which would allow its athletes to resume international competition. As outlined at its last meeting in March, these are that RusAF must meet the costs of its suspension; and that the IAAF must receive access to any samples and analytical data retrieved by WADA from the former Moscow Laboratory, in order to complete any required reanalysis of those samples.

On Friday, RusAF claimed to have met the ‘last requirement’ of the IAAF’s Roadmap to Reinstatement, by paying it US$3.2 million. In March, RusAF claimed that the debt it owed the IAAF was US$3.22 million, however this didn’t include an invoice for costs from 1 January to 31 March 2019, which the IAAF planned to send RusAF at the end of April. The Taskforce Report confirmed that invoice would include the IAAF’s costs of responding to RusAF’s July 2018 appeal against the IAAF decision not to reinstate RusAF, which it withdrew in January. 

RusAF’s Friday statement didn’t mention that the IAAF still requires samples and underlying data from WADA, any analysis of which needs to be completed before it can be reinstated. In July 2018, the AIU outlined to the IAAF Taskforce that it ‘needs to receive the analytical data underlying the findings reported in the LIMS [Laboratory Information Management System] database (i.e., the actual chromatograms and electropherograms generate during analysis of the samples), as well as the related samples themselves (for the purpose or re-analysis), and the names of the athletes who had provided unattributed samples’.

In December 2017, the AIU received from WADA details of 1,800 samples collected by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) from over 1,000 athletes falling under RusAF’s jurisdiction, taken between 2012 and 2015. ‘The AIU advises that it has been in close contact with the relevant persons at WADA, and has been told that once the authentication process has been concluded, AIU will be given access to the data relating to the RusAF athletes in the LIMS database as a matter of priority’, reads March’s Task Force Report (PDF below). ‘The AIU stands ready to analyse those data, to determine what samples still held in the Moscow laboratory need to be extracted and re-analysed, and ultimately to decide which of the athletes have a case to answer for breach of the anti-doping rules, as soon as practicable. Depending on when exactly it obtains the relevant 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.’

WADA didn’t retrieve the samples from the Moscow Laboratory until 30 April, so it remains to be seen if any required reanalysis of samples has been completed. Russians make up six of the 27 athletes that feature on the the AIU’s list of provisional suspensions, and only one of those is listed as a re-testing case.

RusAF reinstatement unlikely

Irrespective of Lysenko’s case, it appears unlikely that the IAAF will be able to recommend the reinstatement of RusAF at its meeting next weekend. Despite its assertions, RusAF has not met the full costs of its suspension, and it would appear that that there has not been enough time to complete reanalysis of any samples based on the LIMS data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory.

Forgery of medical documents to explain whereabouts failures is an extreme course of action to take regarding an athlete only authorised to complete internationally as a neutral. As mentioned by The Sunday Times, whereabouts failures usually result in a suspension of one or two years, and to risk jeopardising the participation of a Russian athletics team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics over one athlete would be an extraordinary risk to take.

However, extraordinary risks have been taken before. Kseniya Savina (Ксения Савина) used the Ukrainian passport of her friend, Galina Syshko (Галина Сышко), to compete overseas eleven times in three years – including in meetings held in Belgium and The Netherlands – in violation of the IAAF’s ban. 

In 2018, 13 Russians violated the IAAF ban by competing in a Masters Athletics event in Estonia. Although the IAAF said that this was a matter for Masters athletics to deal with, it appears no action has been taken by those bodies. At the end of last year, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) found that Russian State agents had manipulated data when illegally accessing the databases of anti-doping organisations using the Fancy Bears monicker. 

As such, it would not be a huge surprise if the allegations in The Sunday Times are accurate. It would also explain an Open Letter from Yuriy Ganus, President of RUSADA, to Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), calling for the replacement of RusAF management. If the allegations are accurate, Lyseknko would have a legitimate claim against his own federation for jeopardising his chances of competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Clean Russian athletes would also have a legitimate claim against RusAF for lengthening their exclusion from international competition.

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