14 May 2018

Russia’s SKR claim new information refutes Dr. Rodchenkov’s evidence

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR) said it has sent the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) details of doping tests carried out on 14 athletes at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which it alleges shows that their samples took between 30 minutes and two hours to process during the day. The 14 athletes were later sanctioned with a lifetime ban by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) based on the evidence of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow and Sochi 2014 laboratories. He argued that samples were swapped during the night for clean urine stored in an adjacent Federal Security Service (FSB) building. 

‘Thus the testimony of Rodchenkov that tests performed on Russian athletes during the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014 after collection were stored at night and replaced by clean urine, and only after their replacement were they examined for the presence of illicit drugs, is refuted’, reads an SKR statement. In his Independent Person (IP) Reports for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Richard McLaren found that a sample swapping system enabled Russia to avoid reporting a single adverse analytical finding (AAF) at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. McLaren found that a different system from the Disappearing Positive Methodology (DPM) usually employed by the Moscow Laboratory had to be used, due to the involvement of international bodies and procedures at the Sochi 2014 Laboratory.

In his affidavit provided to the International Olympic Committee’s Schmid Commission (PDF below), Dr. Rodchenkov outlines that the samples arrived at the Sochi 2014 Laboratory at 1am. ‘After any adjustments to the clean sample were made, the caps would be replaced on the B bottles and the A and B bottles for each athlete would be passed back through the mouse hole in the wall’, reads McLaren’s first IP Report. ‘The bottles would be received in the aliquoting room. The standard laboratory procedure was later conducted on the swapped samples as with all other samples.’

Suspicions have previously been raised about the timing of the sample swapping system that allegedly occurred at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In the Legkov and Zubkov decisions, published by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last month, Dr. Rodchenkov was asked why his diary indicated that he had gone to bed between 23:00 and midnight during the Sochi 2014 Olympics, when he also alleged that samples did not arrive at the Sochi Laboratory at 1am. 

He replied by stating that he had falsified his bedtime ‘because Blokhin was extremely nervous about my diary’. Evgeny Blokhin was an FSB Agent who was allegedly behind the opening of sample bottles. If Blokhin was suspicious of Dr. Rodchenkov’s diary, then why didn’t he confiscate it for the duration of the Sochi 2014 Games, or destroy it? The CAS doesn’t appear to explore that scenario.

Questions could also be asked about why it has taken so long for the SKR to send such doping test details to WADA, almost four years after Hajo Seppelt’s documentary for ARD brought such issues into the public eye. The answer to this is the Legkov and Zubkov cases, in which it is understood that forensic analysis of athlete doping control forms occurred for the first time.

The SKR also alleges that several laboratory staff have testified, under threat of criminal sanctions for false testimonies, that no sample swapping took place. However, it is not clear from Dr. Rodchenkov’s evidence how many Laboratory staff were aware of the alleged sample swapping plan. McLaren’s evidence appears to indicate that only a few people at the Sochi 2014 Laboratory were involved in the actual process of swapping the samples. Those specifically identified are:

• Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Director of the Moscow & Sochi 2014 laboratories;
• Evgeny Antilsky, Doping Control Manager for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA);
• Evgeny Kurdyatsev, Head of the Registration and Biological Sample Accounting Department in the Laboratory;
• Evgeny Blokhin, FSB Agent;

However, the IP Report also mentions that samples were passed through a ‘mouse hole’ into Room 124, the Operations Room, where ‘Dr. Rodchenkov and others were waiting’. It is therefore difficult to draw any conclusions from the fact that Laboratory Staff were not aware that any sample swapping took place.

WADA said that it has not received any of the information outlined above from the SKR, despite its claims to have sent it to WADA. The SKR said that it ‘continues to be open to cooperation with foreign competent authorities, the IOC and FIFA, public international organisations such as WADA, and hopes from mutual assistance from them’. However it added that no such assistance has been provided, despite requests to interrogate Rodchenkov, Richard McLaren and Hajo Seppelt.

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