7th June 2019

Russians have violated the IAAF’s ban by competing internationally

This weekend, the Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will consider whether the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) should be reinstated. As previously reported and despite its assertions to the contrary, RusAF has failed to meet the two remaining conditions required for its reinstatement. In addition, many athletes that fall under RusAF’s jurisdiction have competed internationally, in violation of the IAAF’s ban.

In 2017, 13 Russians competed at the Open Baltic Masters Championships in Pärnu, Estonia. As reported, at least nine of the 13 that competed fall directly under RusAF’s jurisdiction. In October 2018, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the IAAF launched an investigation after it emerged that Kseniya Savina (Ксения Савина) had used the Ukrainian passport of her friend, Galina Syshko (Галина Сышко), to compete overseas 11 times in three years. 

Failure to investigate Russians competing in Pärnu

At its Council meeting in March 2018, the IAAF acknowledged ‘allegations’ that 13 Russians had competed at the Open Baltic Masters on 12-13 August 2017, ‘without first obtaining “neutral athlete” status’. Athletes who fall under RusAF’s jurisdiction 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.

The IAAF Council statement acknowledges that in order to compete, the 13 Russians would need to obtain ANA Status from the IAAF. The 13 Russians didn’t obtain ANA status, as previously reported. Instead they masqueraded as members of Estonian athletics club Sport Invest in order to compete in Pärnu.

‘The AIU looked into the matter but concluded that it does not have authority over such events, which are sanctioned by the World Masters Association (WMA), and therefore it referred the matter to the WMA to follow up’, wrote the IAAF in its March 2018 Taskforce Report (PDF below). The WMA did not respond to questions from The Sports Integrity Initiative about whether it had implemented the IAAF’s request. However, evidence suggests that despite publicly upholding he ban on Russian Masters athletes competing internationally, it privately changed its mind.

As previously reported, it does appear that the Open Baltic Masters, European Masters Athletics (EMA), and WMA fall under the jurisdiction of the IAAF, despite the organisers’ assertions to the contrary. However, irrespective of this and as previously mentioned, at least nine of the 13 Russians that competed in Pärnu fall under the direct jurisdiction of RusAF.

‘A group of 25 of our Masters athletes, including me, officially asked the IAAF in May to allow us to take part in the 2017 European Masters Championships in Aarhus as neutral athletes, and not one of us got permission’, read a posting on Masterstrack.com from Ramir Kuramshin (Рамир Курамшин), one of the Russians who competed in Pärnu. ‘The reason was the none of us had any doping tests in the past. I replied that it’s not our fault, but the fault of the organisers of European, World and other championships who are supervised by IAAF and are not taking tests when we take part in their events. Besides that, I asked why athletes of other countries who also have not doping tests could compete at the international events but we cannot. Until now I have had no response from the IAAF […] It confirms once again that the decision to punish us is groundless and is purely a political measure.’

This posting outlines the following:

• That Russian Masters athletes applied for – and were refused – permission from the IAAF to compete internationally;
• That Kuramshin considers World and European Masters athletics events as supervised by the IAAF;
• That Kuramshin and others competed in Pärnu, ignoring the IAAF’s refusal to grant permission for them to compete internationally.

A statement from the EMA outlines that both it and the WMA Council considered Russian Masters athletes to be banned due to the IAAF’s decision to suspend RusAF. ‘No Masters athlete who is affiliated with the ARAF [RusAF] is permitted to participate in any athletics competition outside of Russia’, read an 18 November 2015 email (PDF below) from Stan Perkins, former President of WMA. ‘This includes all competitions, and applies equally to teams as well as individuals’.

Three years later, Perkins appeared to have changed his mind, at least privately. ‘WMA has been working hard to try and get the Russian Masters athletes released from the ban that exists against all Russian athletes’, he wrote in a letter to Mikhail Vinogradov, a Russian Masters athlete and coach, on 17 April 2018 (pictured, right). ‘We have had meetings with IAAF personnel, made written submissions and finally raised this matter with the IAAF Masters Commission at their meeting in February this year […] WMA believes that these restrictions ARE NOT APPLICABLE to Russian Masters athletes and their exclusion from WMA competitions is wrong.’

In September 2018, Margit Jungmann replaced Perkins as President of WMA. In March of this year, she was pictured with Valery Zhumadilov, a Board member of Sport Invest, who was wearing a Russia shirt. Sport Invest is the Estonian athletics club that colluded with Lembit Talpsepp, President of the Estonian Veteran Athletics Association (EKVA), to enter the 13 Russians in the Open Baltic Masters in Pärnu during 2017. 

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Наблюдал за финалами 60 м из ВИП ложи Торунь Арены в компании госпожи Маргит Юнгманн – Президента Совета Международной Федерации Мастерс Атлетикс (Margit Jungmann – President of WMA Council) Конечно, главной целью у меня были не финалы, а разговор о снятии санкций с российских ветеранов. Собственно, ради этого меня и пригласили на эту встречу, собственно, ради этой встречи, я и принял решение в январе прихать в Торунь и начал готовиться к соревнованиям по бегу, хотя три месяца назад я думал, что ближайшие пару сезонов буду заниматься только штангой. Радует, что подвижки в этом вопросе есть. Уже этим летом россияне смогут официально участвовать в Балтик Опен. Тех самых соревнованиях, из-за которых был скандал в 2017 в Пярну, и у меня были неприятности из-за того, что я помогал россиянам туда попасть. С самого начала, госпожа Юнгманн заверила, что WMA всегда были против распространения санкций на российских ветеранов, но они вынуждены подчиняться ИААФ. Но теперь наметилась тенденция в сторону смягчения проблемы, появились реальные надежды на решение вопроса. Надеемся, что российским ветеранам дадут возможность приехать уже в Венецию в сентябре этого года на Чемпионат Европы. И хотя окончательного решения об отмене санкций еще нет, сам факт движения в эту сторону не может не радовать. Значит, все было не напрасно.

A post shared by Valery Zhumadilov (@valeryzhumadilov) on

‘My main goal was not to watch the 60m finals, but a conversation about the lifting of sanctions from Russian veteran athletes’, reads the above post. ‘Actually, because of this, I was invited to the meeting […] I am glad there has been progress with this issue. Already this summer, Russians will be able to officially participate in the Baltic Open. In that same competition there was a scandal in 2017 in Pärnu, and I had trouble due to the fact that I helped the Russians to get there.

‘From the very beginning, Mrs. Jungmann assured me that the WMA had always been against the extension of sanctions to Russian veterans, but they were forced to obey the IAAF. But now that there is a tendency towards mitigating the problem, there are real hopes for a solution to the issue. We hope that the Russian veterans will be given the opportunity to come to Venice in September for this year’s European Championship.’

The calendar of the Lithuanian Athletics Federation (LLAF) and the calendar of the Estonian Masters Athletics Federation (EKVA) confirms that the Open Baltic Masters will take place in Vilnius on 10/11 August. The event doesn’t appear on the calendar of either the EMA or the calendar of the WMA. 

However, the medal table of the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, which took place in September last year, appears to confirm that no Russians competed. The medal table from the World Masters Indoor Championships, which took place in March this year, also appears to confirm that no Russians competed. 

This suggests that both the WMA and the EMA consider the ban on Russians competing internationally as applicable to Masters athletics events that fall under their jurisdiction. As previously reported, Lembit Talpsepp is President of the EKVA, which organised the 2017 Open Baltic Masters Championships, and had given a guarantee that Russians would not compete in Pärnu, as EMA President Kurt Kaschke was against the idea.

Talpsepp specified on the competition invitation that Russians may only compete with prior permission from the IAAF. An information sheet on the 2017 Open Baltic Masters published on the EMA internet site states that ‘competitions are held according to IAAF and WMA regulations’. 

Another post from Talpsepp on the EMA internet site mentions the EKVA as organiser of the 2017 Open Baltic Masters, which lists its membership of the Estonian Athletic Association (EKJL) at the bottom of its homepage, as well as its membership of EMA. In addition and as already mentioned, the IAAF Council March 2018 statement outlines that the Baltic Masters falls under the jurisdiction of the WMA.

As such, it would appear that in March 2018, the IAAF Council asked the WMA to deal with the issue that 13 Russians competed in the 2017 Baltic Open Masters in Pärnu, without obtaining the required ANA status. Whilst publicly upholding the IAAF’s ban by not allowing Russians to compete in the World Championships and World Indoors, it would appear that the WMA privately reversed its view, telling Russian Masters athletes that the ban on international competition is not applicable to them. 

Since then, it would appear that work has been going on behind the scenes to restore Russian Masters athletes to international competition. This has emboldened those that participated in the fraud that took place in Pärnu, as Zhumadilov’s social media antics confirm.

Kseniya Savina & international competition

On 6 May, the AIU sanctioned Kseniya Savina with a 12 year ban for two separate doping offences. As the decision below reveals, these involved an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for erythropoietin (EPO), and tampering with doping control through falsifying documentation in an attempt to explain her AAF. As the decision (PDF below) reveals, Savina’s AAF occurred from an out of competition test on 15 May 2018; and on 16 August 2018, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) confirmed that the medical documents to explain her AAF had been forged.

© Instagram (@galinasyshko). Syshko is pictured on the left; Savina on the right.

In October 2018, the AIU confirmed it was investigating reports that Savina had used her friend’s Ukrainian passport to compete overseas eleven times in three years. Kseniya Savina and Galina Syshko grew up together in Crimea, which was annexed from the Ukraine by Russia in 2014. As such, both were entitled to Ukrainian and Russian passports.

Following the IAAF’s suspension of RusAF on 9 November 2015, Russian athletes were not permitted to compete internationally. This meant that Savina couldn’t use her Russian passport to compete internationally. However her friend Syshko, who is also a runner, had retained her Ukrainian passport.

It is alleged that Savina borrowed her childhood friend’s Ukrainian passport and masqueraded as her in order to compete internationally. As shown in the picture on the right, the two bear similar features and their names are similar in Cyrillic script (Ксения Савина and Галина Сышко). 

IAAF records for a Halyna Sishko…

Savina is an 800m runner, and IAAF records for a Halyna Sishko show (see left), she shaved 13 seconds off her 800m personal best at a tournament in Belgium during 2016, having not competed since 2011 (credit to Hilary Evans @OlympicStatman for spotting this). Savina also used her friend’s passport to compete in tournaments in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Portugal, reported MatchTV.

RusAF told the Russian TV channel it became aware of the allegations in July 2018 – before Savina’s August AAF. It is understood that the AIU is still investigating.

Wilful violations

Both of the above incidents represent wilful violations of the IAAF’s ban on Russians competing internationally. Many of the 13 Russians that competed in Pärnu had been refused ANA Status, yet masqueraded as members of an Estonian athletics club at an event which the IAAF confirmed falls under the WMA’s jurisdiction, and the WMA did nothing. Will the IAAF take action against the WMA for failing to uphold its rules?

There are no Russians listed in the results for the 2017 Open Baltic Masters on the event’s internet site (click here to download the men’s results, and here to download the women’s results). However, photos (click here and here) of the results list taken by a whistleblower confirm that 13 Russians competed. They are listed in the table on the right.

As the results lists show, the nationalities of athletes competing are listed, but the Russians are listed as members of Estonian club Sport Invest. This, in itself, suggests an attempt at deception. Yet rather than taking action on this, the WMA has been working behind the scenes to allow Russian Masters athletes to resume international competition.

One tends to think of Masters athletes as pensioners (apologies to any Masters athletes reading this), yet Masters athletics covers those over the age of 35. As such, there is a possibility that some Russian Masters athletes could have been involved in Russian State doping, which evidence suggests dates back to 2001, and perhaps even to Soviet times. 

It could therefore by argued that the ban in far from unfair, as claimed by Perkins. Failure to hold the perpetrators to account for the fraud that took place in Pärnu has emboldened them. A Change.org campaign has been launched. It has also led to ridicule, threats and frustration for the whistleblower involved.

Savina is reported to be athlete 9302…

Savina knew she was banned from competing internationally, yet it appears she went to extraordinary lengths to do so anyway. Such extreme measures appear improbable, until you bear in mind that Savina was later sanctioned not only for doping, but for forging medical documents regarding her husband and coach’s treatment with EPO.

The IAAF is in a difficult position this weekend. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) bent over backwards to reinstate RUSADA, even when Russia didn’t meet its softened criteria. It did this due to pressure from the Olympic Movement, whose sporting federations were suffering due to the lack of participation of Russians in its events, and from being unable to host events in the world’s largest country.

The IAAF has similar concerns. It would undoubtably benefit from allowing Russian to compete in and host its events again. Yet RusAF hasn’t met its two remaining criteria. Its athletes have violated the ban on international competition. Banned coaches, such as Vladimir Mokhnev and others, are still working with Russian athletes. The AIU is also investigating if RusAF was complicit in forging documents to assist Danil Lysenko in explaining whereabouts violations. As a result Yuriy Ganus, President of RUSADA, has called for a complete overhaul of RusAF.

Rules are rules, as the saying goes. Allowing them to be bent and broken without consequence only emboldens those who seek to circumvent them.

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