Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Evidence has emerged that Russian athletes competed at the Open Baltic Masters Championships in Estonia and at the World Masters Games in New Zealand last year. Russian track and field athletes are currently ineligible for international competition, as the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has been suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) since 13 November 2015, due to allegations of systemic doping.
Sporting authorities remain confused as to whether any rules have been broken and if so, who should take action. European Masters Athletics (EMA) has confirmed that the IAAF’s ban is applicable to Russian Masters athletes, but the governing bodies of Masters Athletics argue that the events in question do not fall under the IAAF’s jurisdiction.
Evidence held by The Sports Integrity Initiative shows that 13 Russians competed in the Open Baltic Masters Championships, 12-13 August 2017, as entrants from a single Estonian athletics club, Sport Invest. Deleted conversations from Russian social media network VKontakte (VK) also suggests that the President of the Estonian Veteran Athletics Association (EKVA), Lembit Talpsepp, colluded with Valery Zhumadilov, a Sport Invest board member, to enter the Russian athletes.
A whistleblower Masters athlete said that on arrival in Pärnu, where the Open Baltic Masters was held, “I heard Russian voices. A Russian came in by me, Ramir Kuramshin. He was the bearer of the flame at the Moscow 1980 Olympics and at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. I asked myself – if he is here, can I run?”
Following contact with the whistleblower’s national federation and influenced by previous statements from World Masters Athletics (WMA), the whistleblower feared a ban if they competed against the Russians. “At the last minute, I decided not to run”, continued the whistleblower. “Kuramshin told me afterwards ‘you can say that you did not know’. I could only answer ‘but I do know’, meaning that I did not appreciate being invited to lie. The results were pinned on the wall. Fortunately, I had my phone and took photos. When I protested, I was subjected to ridicule and the results list showing the Russians disappeared from the internet after a few days.”
There are no Russians listed in the results for the 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 of the results list taken by the 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 Sport Invest, an Estonian running club. This, in itself, suggests an attempt at deception.
Soon after the competition, after the whistleblower had protested, the Russians were deleted from the official results, but were not listed as disqualified or sanctioned. “Officially, it didn’t happen”, said the whistleblower. This also suggests an attempt at deception.
There is no question that the 13 athletes are Russian nationals. They are neither Estonian residents nor Russian-speaking Estonians. For example, as shown on the left, Liubov Samotoshenkova is listed as a member of Sport Invest. However according to Wikipedia, she was a member of the Russian 4x100m team that took bronze in the W50 category at the 2014 European Masters Athletics Championships.
Vyacheslav Tkachev is also listed as a member of Sport Invest on the results lists, yet his social media profile lists him as a resident of Kaliningrad, the Russian region which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic sea. His photos appear to show him competing at a number of athletics events in a Russia shirt during 2017.
The whistleblower suspected that Russians would attempt to compete at the Open Baltic Masters and forewarned the Estonians. In principle, the whistleblower is not against Russians competing in Masters athletics, and has termed the IAAF ban on Russians as “unjust”.
From deleted conversations on the VK social network, it would appear that Sport Invest’s Zhumadilov colluded with the Estonian Masters Athletics Association (EKVA) to allow the Russians to complete. ‘Ramir [Kuramshin] has already bought the ticket and has booked the hotel’, reads a now deleted conversation from 20 June 2017. ‘But we found a way around it. I talked about it yesterday with the President of the federation, Lembit Talpsepp. We decided on the following course of action. I will declare all Russians as members of the Estonian club. There are about ten people going. So you can still come.’ Zhumadilov confirmed the ‘composition of the Russian team’ containing the 13 Russians listed above in a 3 August post on the VK social network.
Lembit Talpsepp is President of the EKVA, which organised the 2017 Open Baltic Masters Championships. Talpsepp had given the whistleblower a guarantee that Russians would not be competing in Estonia, as President of European Masters Athletics (EMA), Kurt Kaschke, was against the idea. Talpsepp had also specified on the competition invitation that Russians may only compete with prior permissions from the IAAF. It appears that the 13 Russians who took part in the Open Baltic Masters did not have that permission.
Kuramshin appeared particularly angry at being outed as a banned Russian who competed. ‘The decision of IAAF […] to ban Russian Masters is completely unjust and groundless and it’s taken without presenting any example of our guilt’, wrote the 81 year old on a Masters athletics forum. ‘Instead of protesting against this arbitrary decision, as do the majority of foreign Masters, [the whistleblower] demands to punish us once again and to disqualify for one year Russian Masters who were invited to the competition in Estonia as members of one of the local athletics club without any reference to Russia.
‘By the way, a group of 25 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. The reason was that 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.’
Kuramshin asked the whistleblower what he aimed to achieve through complaining about the 13 Russians who competed at the 2017 Open Baltic Masters. ‘A knighthood’, wrote the whistleblower, ironically. ‘We have seen in a coffin such knights’, came Kuramshin’s chilling response.
The whistleblower’s national Masters Association said that it had passed the information supplied to it to the EMA. ‘We are aware that they are following this up but are not aware of any outcome at this time’, wrote a spokesperson in an email. ‘As the [national Masters federation concerned] is not directly involved, we would not expect to be kept up to date with progress. It is not [our] policy to get involved in issues between the Masters governing body of other nations and the EMA or WMA.’
“The first thing to note is that Baltic Masters Athletics is not a member of the IAAF”, said EMA President Kaschke. “The three Baltic countries organise the event together – they can do what they want. Two organisations offered to enter people into the system. The Estonian Federation President is aware of the situation. Masters organisations must be integrated into national associations for the ban to apply. Independent organisations are not IAAF members.”
However, 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 proudly lists its membership of the Estonian Athletic Association (EKJL) at the bottom of its homepage, as well as its membership of the EMA.
It would therefore appear that the EKVA is integrated into its national association (the EKJL) and is a member of the EMA. Kaschke has also clarified that he has been told by the IAAF that the ban on Russian athletes applies to all international competitions.
‘IAAF General Secretary Jean Gracia sent us the information about the decision’, reads a statement from Kaschke published on the EMA internet site referring to the IAAF’s decision to ban RusAF from international competition. ‘Following the discussions that took place during the IAAF Executive Board and yesterday’s decision of the Council about Russian Federation, I want to confirm that we could not allow the participation of Russian athletes to any international competition (including EMA Masters Indoor Championships in Ancona) until further notice.’
The whistleblower passed the evidence that 13 Russians had competed on to the IAAF, but has yet to receive a response. ‘As the Athletics Integrity Unit does not have jurisdiction over Masters athletics events, we cannot comment in this instance’, wrote a spokesperson for the IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) in an email. ‘The regulation of such events is within the jurisdiction of World Masters Athletics (WMA)’.
The jurisdictional history of Masters Athletics is long and complicated, but it appears that contrary to the AIU’s claims, the IAAF does have jurisdiction over WMA. In 2001, a name change was approved from the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) to World Masters Athletics, IAAF anti-doping rules and procedures were adopted, and the jurisdiction of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was accepted.
Although the WMA’s internet site doesn’t mention that it is under the jurisdiction of the IAAF, its anti-doping page outlines that it accepts the IAAF’s rules and regulations. A statement seeking volunteers for the 2015 WMA World Championships in Lyon was authored by ‘World Masters Athletics Championships LOC for the IAAF’.
An email from WMA President Stan Perkins said that ‘the matter has previously been brought to our attention and we have initiated inquires with several entities’. Lembit Talpsepp, the President of the EVKA which hosted the 2017 Open Baltic Championships and who is implicated as colluding to allow Russians to compete at the event, did not respond to emails from The Sports Integrity Initiative about the situation.
The World Masters Games, which takes place every four years, is organised by the International Masters Games Association (IMGA) and was hosted by New Zealand in 2017. The results list (PDF below) for the Games confirms that many Russians took part.
Bridget Cushen, an IAAF Masters Committee member, complained about the IMGA turning a ‘blind eye’ to the participation of the Russians in the World Masters Games. ‘WMA are not allowed to accept Russian entries at the moment and EMA tried to allow them, but were warned by WMA’, she wrote in a letter of complaint to the Masterstrack.com blog. ‘If you check on the governors of the IMGA, the IAAF Vice President, Sergey Bubka, is listed and so is Sir Philip Craven (Paralympics). And Lord Coe is listed as an ambassador’.
An IMGA statement argued that Russians are allowed to compete at the World Masters Games because they are not representing their country. ‘World Masters Athletics and World Masters Games rules differ in that, at World Masters Athletics events, athletes represent their countries’, read an IMGA statement published by Masterstrack.com. ‘At World Masters Games events, athletes do not represent their countries. They compete as individuals within their chosen sports. While there are a number of Russian athletes competing at WMG2017, some of whom choose to dress in national colours and carry national flags, they are competing as individuals, not representing Russia.’
This is supported by the IMGA Constitution (PDF below). ‘The participants participate as individuals’, reads Appendix A(I), which refers to the rules governing the IMGA Masters Games. ‘They do not represent any country, region or city. There are no national anthems and no national flags (for example at victory ceremonies).’
However, it could be argued that the participation of the Russians in Auckland puts the IMGA board in a difficult position, given its membership. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has attempted to ban Russians implicated in systemic doping from all future editions of the Olympic Games, yet key IAAF, IOC and Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) figures seem prepared to allow Russians to compete in the World Masters Games. Included on the Board are:
• Sergey Bubka; Senior Vice President and Council member for the IAAF, which has excluded the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) from international competition;
• Chairman of the IOC Disciplinary Commission Denis Oswald, who has headed an IOC Commission responsible for sanctioning Russian athletes;
• Sir Philip Craven, former President of the International Paralympic Commission, which has excluded the Russian Paralympic Commission (PRC) from international competition;
• John Coates, President of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is hearing a number of appeals against the IOC’s decision to ban Russian athletes from the Olympics next week.
As shown above, there are question marks over whether the Open Baltic Masters falls under the jurisdiction of the EMA, to which the ban on Russian competitors applies. As shown above, it appears that the 13 athletes who competed are Russian. However, irrespective of whether the Open Baltic Masters falls under the jurisdiction of the EMA, if the 13 athletes fall under the jurisdiction of RusAF, then they are subject to the IAAF ban.
A document (PDF below) listing the results of the XXVI Summer Championships of Russia Track and Field Veterans, which took place from 29 September to 1 October last year in the Yunost Sports Complex near Sochi, appears to suggest that they do. The document was published by the RusAthletics internet site, which until March last year was the official RusAF site (it has been replaced by http://rusathletics.info as the official RusAF site). The document features the RusAF logo and mentions that the competition is organised by RusAF (ВФЛА in Russian).
The list of participants includes nine of the 13 Russians that participated in the Open Baltic Masters. These are Liubov Samotoshenkova (Любовь Самотошенкова); Andrei Suchkov (Андрей Сучков); Evgeny Boldin (Евгений Болдин); Dmitry Yakhin (Дмитрий Яхин); Vladimir Sukhachev (Владимир Сухачев); Alexander Kornazhitskiy (Александр Корнажицкий); Valerii Zhurba (Валерий Журба); Nikolai Potapov (Николай Потапов); and Ramir Kuramshin (Рамир Курамшин). As well as the names, the date of births listed on the form above match those of nine Russian competitors in the Open Baltic Masters.
It therefore appears that at least nine of the 13 Russians that competed at the Open Baltic Masters fall under the jurisdiction of RusAF, and are therefore banned from international competition. ‘Given the sanctions imposed by the IAAF on Russian athletes, the Russian championship was held in a closed format’, reads a report on the Russian event (click here to download), further underlining that RusAF recognises that the nine Russians are banned from international competition.
It would appear that the participation of 13 Russians in the Open Baltic Masters has violated the IAAF ban on athletes that fall under RusAF’s jurisdiction from competing in international events. The actions of the EKVA and Sport Invest do suggest an attempt to conceal the participation of the Russians that warrants investigation. The document explaining that the 2017 Russian Veterans Championship was held in a closed format due to the IAAF’s ban suggests that RusAF knew that the participation of at least nine of the 13 athletes that competed in the Open Baltic Masters in international events would violate the IAAF ban.
It would appear that certain sporting bodies are prepared to turn a blind eye to the fact and are not willing to investigate. The EMA has a duty to investigate whether the EKVA, which organised the Open Baltic Championships, was involved in deception to allow the participation of the 13 Russians. The IAAF’s AIU has a duty to investigate whether RusAF was aware that the 13 Russians would be competing, and if so, whether it actively flouted its ban on international competition. To not investigate is a disservice to other athletes.
The position of the IMGA regarding the participation of Russians at the World Masters Games appears to be at contrast with the strict liability principle applied by the IOC in attempting to ban all Russians implicated in systemic doping from the Olympics for life. As key figures behind the IOC’s ban are members of the IMGA, this is likely to further fuel Russian speculation that a ban on its athletes is motivated by reasons other than the protection of ‘clean’ sport.
There is no suggestion that any of the Russian Masters athletes are in any way involved in doping. An argument could also be made that the IAAF’s ban was not intended to cover many of the Masters athletes, who were unlikely to have been included in the systemic doping system outlined by WADA in its two Independent Commission and two Independent Person reports. However rules are rules, so the saying goes.
As Masters athletics covers anyone over the age of 35, there is a possibility that some of the Russian Masters athletes concerned could have been involved in the systemic doping system operated by the Russian State, which evidence suggests dates back to 2001, and perhaps even to Soviet times. To ban Russian athletes from the Olympics for life, but allow Russian Masters athlete to compete internationally undermines the entire argument that Russia’s ban is about the protection of ‘clean’ sport. Allowing Russian athletes to compete in international competition would be unfair to clean athletes, so the mantra goes. Why isn’t the same true for Masters athletics?
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