3rd November 2016

Russia adopts law criminalising doping

Russia’s State Duma (parliament) today adopted a Federal law ‘On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation to strengthen responsibility for anti-doping rule violations’, the country’s Ministry of Sport announced. However concerns remain that the new law may seek to sanction individuals rather than investigate and punish those involved in any systemic state doping.

The adoption of the law criminalises those who induce athletes to dope by creating a new article in the Russian criminal code, a statement from the Duma confirmed. This refers to any intentional action to promote the use of a prohibited substance or method by an athlete, ‘including by means of deception, persuasion, advice, guidance and suggestion’.

Under the law, Russian athlete support personnel must also provide athletes with information about prohibited substances and methods. ‘The list of such substances and methods must be approved by the Russian government’, continued the statement.

Coaches, specialists in sports medicine and other athlete support personnel that are found guilty under the new law face a fine of 300,000 roubles (€4,250), or a custodial sentence of up to one year. Those found guilty will also be banned from holding posts in sport for three years.

If the crime is premeditated and involves a group of people; uses intimidation, violence or threat of force; or involves a minor athlete, the fine increases to 500,000 roubles (€7,100). In addition, those convicted under these terms face a four-year ban from sport and a two-year custodial sentence or one-year prison sentence, which a court has jurisdiction to impose. If an athlete is doped without consent, those responsible face a fine of up to one million roubles (€14,200); a custodial sentence of two years or imprisonment of one year, as well as a four-year ban from sport.

The new law would allow the Russian State to bring criminal charges against some involved in systemic doping, as identified by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Person (IP) Report, compiled by Richard McLaren. In July, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR) placed Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov at the centre of an alleged illegal trade in performance-enhancing substances, after charging him with abuse of power under Russia’s Criminal Code in June.

Rodchenkov was the whistleblower who alleged that a shadow laboratory had been used at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, allowing samples from key Russian athletes to be replaced with ‘clean’ urine. Russia reported no anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) at the Sochi Games, which was its most successful Winter Olympics.

On 24 August, the SKR went a step further, and suggested that Rodchenkov may have been acting under orders from WADA. “Rodchenkov, as head of the Moscow laboratory, is subordinate only to the World Anti-Doping Agency”, said SKR spokesperson Vladimir Markin in a statement. “Therefore, investigators have reason to believe that the command for the destruction of the doping tests came from somebody within the leadership of the World Anti-Doping Agency. In support of this version is the fact that so far, we have not ben presented with concrete evidence of doping by Russian athletes.”

SKR investigators wish to question Sir Craig Reedie, President of WADA and Richard McLaren, who compiled the IP Report for WADA. Requests for legal assistance have been sent to Canada, the US and Switzerland, however the SKR has yet to receive a response, said Markin. SKR investigators are also examining a third theory – that Rodchenkov deliberately destroyed samples in order to discredit the anti-doping system.

The SKR appears to be ignoring evidence that doping was systemic in Russia. This is hardly surprising, given that one of the major findings of the WADA IP Report was that State Police (FSB) agent Evgeny Blokhin was responsible for opening and resealing sample bottles in order to manipulate anti-doping test results reported by the Sochi 2014 laboratory. Concerns therefore remain that the new law may seek to sanction individuals such as Rodchenkov rather than uncover and punish those giving the orders. For example, the SKR appears to be concentrating on Rodchenkov rather than investigating issues such as why all doping samples still have to be re-routed to Moscow; closed cities being utilised to prevent testing of athletes and other problems that appear to originate with the State rather than any individual.

To give one example, the SKR is not investigating Natalia Zhelanova, who was suspended in July after being implicated in the WADA IP Report, or Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko – also implicated in the report and Zhelanova’s boss after she was promoted in April. It does not appear to be investigating potential collusion between the Russian Ministry of Sport, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the Moscow laboratory, despite the WADA Independent Commission finding that people were ‘unwilling to speak candidly regarding relationships between Minsport, RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory out of fear for reprisals’.

However, the new law will allow action to be taken against those lower down the chain, such as the banned coaches that were shown to be still operating in Russia. In that final ARD ‘Geheimsache Doping’ documentary – perhaps the most informative in the series produced by Hajo Seppelt – Russian State officials were shown denying the evidence in front of their eyes. Until Russian authorities effectively investigate these people’s role in systemic doping, then the suspicion will remain that its new law is designed to sacrifice the foot soldiers to protect the generals.

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