10th November 2016

Russian Olympic Committee calls for overhaul of anti-doping system

Alexander Zhukov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (OKP), has called for a complete overhaul of the global anti-doping system in a speech given to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in which he emphatically denied state involvement in systemic Russian doping. The speech also defended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) testing of Russian athletes, which Zukhov claimed was more extensive than the UK Anti-Doping Agency’s (UKAD), which is testing Russian athletes whilst RUSADA is suspended. It was also heavily critical of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) treatment of Russian athletes, which Zukhov said had been unfairly excluded from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

‘No state-supported doping programme in Russia exists and never existed’, said Zukhov in the speech, published on 7 November. Zukhov chaired the  Supervisory Board of the local organising committee for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which was Russia’s most successful Winter Olympics and in which not a single Russian athlete reported an adverse analytical finding (AAF). As Article 4.2 of this IOC document reveals, the IOC delegated responsibility for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics anti-doping programme to the Sochi 2014 local organising committee.

The Independent Commission (IC) headed by Richard McLaren later found that a shadow laboratory had operated at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. ‘The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games’, read the report. ‘The IC exposed State involvement in the manipulation of the doping control program operated by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and within Russian athletics’.

Despite this, Zukhov would like athletes to be able to opt for analysis of their B sample to be undertaken locally. ‘In order to ensure the transparency of the activities of accredited laboratories, it is necessary to change the rules about the B sample analysis, allowing this to be carried out in the laboratory at the discretion of the athlete’, he wrote.

‘We went through a very difficult period of preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which was accompanied by a completely unjustified – in our view – non-admission of a number of athletes and attempts initiated by WADA and the anti-doping agencies of several countries to exclude the Russian Olympic team from all participation, ignoring the legitimate rights of clean athletes’, continued Zukhov. He added  that work had been carried out to draw up lists of Russian athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be tested by the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD), whose samples were collected and analysed by overseas laboratories. ‘Almost all the samples were negative, but this was still not enough to guarantee that clean athletes would be allowed to participate in international competitions’, writes Zukhov.

However, UKAD reported a number of significant obstacles in its efforts to test Russian athletes in June, shortly before the Olympics. A WADA report (PDF below) found that closed cities, where access is restricted, were utilised to deter testing of athletes; that UKAD’s completed tests in Russia were outnumbered by cancelled tests; that athletes ran away from testers or withdrew from events where Doping Control Officers (DCOs) were present; that the doping control process was tampered with or interfered with by certain sports; that sample collection procedures make blood testing almost impossible; and more.

The above WADA Report also found that operating an Athlete Biological Passport Programme (ABP) in Russia is almost impossible, as  ‘all samples must pass through Moscow’. It also appeared to corroborate claims made in ARD’s documentary, ‘Geheimsache Doping: Showdown for Russia’, that cities where public access is restricted are being used by Russian athletes for training.

Despite the apparent restrictions to its activities highlighted in the above WADA report, Zukhov was critical of the amount of testing carried out by UKAD in Russia. ‘In 2016, foreign doping structures applied to Russian athletes took about 1,500 samples’, he wrote. ‘According to projections by WADA for 2017, it is planned that around 6,000 samples will be taken. This is absolutely not enough. In particular, when RUSADA competed is work 20,000 samples were taken. Now, under the current scheme, only national team level athletes are being tested.’

However, as previously reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, it appears that RUSADA manipulated its testing figures over a number of years, often reporting exact numbers of tests. The number of tests quoted in its annual reports often did not match the numbers quoted in previous annual reports. So Zukhov’s claim that 20,000 tests were carried out must be treated with caution.

Despite this, Zukhov called for the reinstatement of RUSADA, as using UKAD would cost €10 million for 6,000 tests. ‘Why, in this case, can the issue of RUSADA’s accreditation and resumption of its activities not be solved quickly, especially since the agency is under the full control of WADA?’ he asked. ‘What prevents it? We would like to appeal to you, as the founders of WADA, with a request to render all possible assistance in the speedy restoration of powers to the national anti-doping agency and the anti-doping laboratory. Because otherwise, it is clear that a full, normal fight against doping is simply impossible.’

However, as well as calling for reinstatement of RUSADA, the Moscow laboratory and Russian athletes, Zukhov also called for a complete overhaul of the anti-doping system. ‘WADA claims to be about empowerment, but it cannot be held responsible for the activities of structures subordinate to it’, continued Zukhov. ‘Its activity is not transparent, many decisions are secretive and it becomes a tool for manipulation, including of a political nature, as well as for the creation and formulation of competitive advantages’. Zukhov said that RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory had been under the ‘complete and permanent control’ of WADA, which had ‘recognised their excellent work in meeting all requirements’.

However, in response to questions about whether it had been monitoring RUSADA testing figures, WADA said that it had relied on information submitted by anti-doping organisations (ADOs), such as RUSADA, which failed to submit its 2011 testing figures. So although WADA may have recognised advances in testing procedures reported to it by WADA, the level of monitoring it carried out on the agency remains subject to question.

‘We believe that it is necessary to completely revise the system, depriving the national anti-doping agencies, international federations and organising committees of the right to test planning’, wrote Zukhov, who argued that WADA should take control, publishing testing statistics, as well as improving the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) system, which has been criticised following Fancy Bears’ illegal hacks into the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).

In terms of the IOC, he may be preaching to the converted. On 8 October, the IOC underlined its commitment to make the entire anti-doping system independent in its Declaration of the 5th Olympic Summit. The way forward for WADA will be discussed at its upcoming Foundation Board meeting in Glasgow on 20 November, which The Sports Integrity Initiative will be attending.

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