SII Focus 13 May 2016

Russia substituted urine samples at Sochi 2014 to top medal table

Russia allegedly substituted samples taken from at least 15 medal winners at the Sochi 2014 Olympics using a shadow laboratory – room 124 – which replaced samples with ‘clean’ urine, which was then re-sealed in the ‘tamper proof’ bottles and passed back through a hole in the wall. The claims were made by the former Director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, in a series of interviews with film-maker Bryan Fogel, reported by the New York Times.

Earlier this week, Rodchenkov told former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) employee Vitaly Stepanov that four of the 13 gold medals won by Russia at Sochi 2014 were won by athletes on steroids in a ’60 minutes’ documentary for CBS News. His latest claims clarify how, with the help of Russia’s federal security service (FSB), he both doped athletes and replaced up to 100 samples to help Russia win 33 medals at Sochi 2014, more than double the 15 medals (three gold) won at Vancouver 2010.

‘Cocktail’ developed for athletes

Rodchenkov claimed that many athletes in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics and throughout the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics utilised a ‘cocktail’ of three drugs he had developed involving metenolone, oxandrolone and trenbolone – all steroids. The drugs were dissolved in alcohol to speed up absorption and shorten the detection period – Chivas whisky for men and Martini for women – using a precise formula; one milligram of steroid for every millilitre of alcohol.

He also named athletes he had helped in this way. They included 14 members of the country’s cross-country ski team as well as gold medal winners Alexander Legkov (50km freestyle cross country skiing), bobsledder Alexander Zubkov and Alexander Tretiakov (skeleton). Rodchenkov also claimed that the women’s ice-hockey team doped throughout the Games.

Rodchenkov said Sochi was the apex of a decade-long effort to perfect Russia’s doping strategy. “We were fully equipped, knowledgeable, experienced and perfectly prepared for Sochi like never before”, he said in the interviews, reported the New York Times. “It was working like a Swiss watch”.

Spreadsheet of doped athletes & bottle opening

Rodchenkov provided the New York Times with a spreadsheet of doped athletes he alleges was given to him by the Russian Ministry of Sport on 21 January 2014, before the Sochi Games. He alleges that he was instructed to substitute their samples if they won a medal. Eleven of the 33 medals won at Sochi 2014 were won by athletes on the spreadsheet.

Rodchenkov claims that before the start of the Sochi Games, an FSB agent presented him with a previously sealedWADAprofiles_GRodchenkov sample bottle that had been opened, with its uniquely-numbered cap
intact. “When I first time saw that bottle is open, I did not blieve my eyes”, he said. “I truly believed this was tamper proof”. Berlinger produces the athlete sample bottles generally used for urine samples in sport, which it advertises as tamper proof.

This FSB agent could have been the mysterious Russian agent identified in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Observer report on Sochi 2014. It found that while all Sochi laboratory staff ‘had been identified in the Laboratory Games Staff list under their ISO 17025 accreditation’, a ‘representative of the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation’ who ‘was not a part of the Laboratory Games staff and the IOC Medical Commission’ and ‘whose role was unclear to the IO’ was also present.

Sample destruction & letter

The Moscow laboratory was suspended in November last year, after Rodchenkov admitted destroying 1,417 samples (page 13 of the first report of the WADA Independent Commission). It also found that the Lausanne Laboratory had acted contrary to specific instructions by destroying 67 samples sent from Moscow in 2012.

However, in November last year, the Sports Integrity Initiative uncovered that Martial Saugy, Director of the Lausanne Laboratory, acted as a paid consultant to the Organising Committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games and/or the Russian Ministry of Sport. As reported, he was in Russia during the Games. ArneLjungvistBlogHe was even pictured in Sochi on Ljungqvist’s blog with Chairman of the International Olympic Commission (IOC) Professor Arne Ljungqvist and Natalia Zhelanova, then head of the Anti-Doping Division of the Russian Ministry of Sport.

WADA’s IC was severely critical of Saugy’s actions in its first report. It reported that it had ‘not discovered evidence that would support otherwise culpable conduct on the part of the Lausanne laboratory in relation to the destruction of the samples’, but also emphasised that it ‘was not satisfied with’ and ‘did not believe’ the explanations provided by the Saugy as to how the samples came to be destroyed.

The samples transferred to Lausanne from Moscow in 2012 take on extra significance because Fogel and Rodchenkov have written to the IOC and WADA asking them to re-analyse samples transferred from Moscow to Lausanne. Rodchenkov’s latest revelations will re-open questions as to how much the Lausanne laboratory knew about what was going on in the Moscow laboratory, and whether it was complicit.

Russia’s response

The Kremlin labelled Rodchenkov’s allegations as “slander from a defector”. Russian Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, also dismissed Rodchenko’s claims as a deliberate attack on Russian sport. “Information attacks against the Russian sports are still underway”, he told news agency TASS. “It reminds me of a relay, when a baton is passed from one foreign media source to another one. These are all links in a single chain. There is nothing behind it in fact. There are no facts.”

However, Rodchenko’s revelations reveal that manipulation at the Moscow laboratory had been going on since 2004 – from prior to the London 2012 Olympics to Sochi 2014, which he claimed represented the apex of a decade’s work. In March, the Sports Integrity Initiative reported how RUSADA had been manipulating test figures – specifically from 2009 until 2012. It appears that many sports over the passage of time could have been affected by corruption within the Russian anti-doping system, giving the lie to the claim that this is a problem confined to athletics.

A Russian witch hunt?

On 17 June, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council will decide whether it can re-admit Russia ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics at its Vienna meeting. At the Sports Resolutions conference last week, UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner said that it would be unfair to ban just Russian athletics, since other sports were also tested by RUSADA using the Moscow laboratory during the period in question. Rodchenkov’s claims will add support to those calling for a full ban on Russian athletes competing at Rio 2016.

“If we ban Russian athletics from Rio, then we are giving them an Olympic cycle to come back prepared”, said Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe at the Sports Resolutions conference. “Do they even know how to train for the Olympics without drugs?”

The danger with this approach is that clean athletes will face punishment for the actions of officials. Yuliya Stepanova, one of the whistleblowers who alerted the world to what was going on in Russia in December 2014, has petitioned the IAAF Council to compete as an independent athlete at Rio 2016. However, banning some Russians but not others may result in accusations of unfairness.

Evidence has been uncovered that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been discussing the situation with the IAAF at April’s SportAccord convention. Key to this discussion should be the word favoured by the WADA IC: ‘systemic’. Making innocent athletes pay for the actions of officials is not the answer.

In a recent editorial, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie wrote about using a percentage of television and sponsorship revenue to pay for anti-doping. Dick Pound, Chairman of the WADA Independent Commission, has also spoken about the idea of forcing those being investigated by WADA to pay for the costs of that investigation, if wrong-doing is identified. Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup. Perhaps now is the time to start talking to FIFA…

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