23 December 2019

SKR also blames Dr. Rodchenkov for manipulating Moscow Lab data

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) has backed the assertions of Russian authorities that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov remotely manipulated the contents of the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The former management of the Moscow Laboratory remotely accessed the LIMS database from IP addresses in Germany on the US during 2015 and 2016, argues the SKR. 

‘All the evidence obtained by the investigation shows that Rodchenkov and unidentified persons intentionally made changes [to] the electronic database to distort the parameters and indicators of Russian athletes’ doping samples’, reads a statement (PDF below, or click here to open) from an SKR spokesperson. The SKR launched its criminal investigation into Dr. Rodchenkov on 8 June 2016, and Saturday’s statement represents its first comment on its progress since January last year, when it announced the investigation was continuing.

WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) outlined that Rodchenkov’s Deputy, Dr. Timofey Sobolevsky and Oleg Migachev, who was responsible for the LIMS, ‘may have’ accessed it remotely. ‘The last evidence of any such access was on 9 June 2016, and the ICR [SKR] has stated that any possibility of such remote access was ended when the current Moscow Laboratory system administrator [Evgeniy Mochalov] started work at the Laboratory in July 2016’, reads its Report.

It has been reported that Mochalov has gone missing. In 2016, former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Director Nikita Kamaev and its Founding Chairman, Vyacheslav Sinev, died within two weeks of each other. The two had discussed collaborating with the International Network of Doping Research (INDR) on an exposé style book discussing doping.

WADA sanctioned RUSADA as non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code for a four year period after discovering discrepancies between a LIMS database it acquired in October 2017 with the one it retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January this year. It is understood that the 2017 database was given to it by Drs. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky. 

As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, Dr. Rodchenkov is shown discussing a ‘database’ with WADA management in Bryan Fogel’s ‘Icarus’ film. However, ‘Icarus’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, before WADA ‘acquired’ the database in October 2017. 

This may be because although Dr. Rodchenkov had the LIMS, he did not have the raw data underpinning it. The Report of WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) team confirms that the October 2017 LIMS database was provided by performing an ‘LIMS SQL Dump’ on 3 September 2015. An SQL Dump is understood to be a method used for backing up a database so that its contents can be recovered if it is damaged or corrupted.

The Russian authorities argue that Migachev and Drs. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky contacted Laboratory staff in order to obtain the raw data that underpins the LIMS database. They claim that in August and September 2017, Dr. Rodchenkov offered money and asylum in the US to the Director of the Laboratory in return for the database containing the raw data of athlete anti-doping tests. This was shortly before WADA announced that it was ‘confident’ that the LIMS files it ‘acquired’ in October 2017 contained all testing data from January 2012 to August 2015.

Ducks in a row

The SKR statement illustrates that the Russian authorities are getting their ducks in a row ahead of an appeal against WADA’s sanction, which is likely to be confirmed at a RUSADA Executive Board meeting tomorrow. WADA illustrated in detail how the LIMS database retrieved in January 2019 had been manipulated, rebutting many of the arguments put forward by the Russian authorities. But it has never explained how it can be confident that the 2017 LIMS database hadn’t also been manipulated. As the above illustrates, it would appear that this could be the focus of RUSADA’s appeal.

Dr. Rodchenkov left Russia for the USA on 17 November 2015 following Dr. Sobolevsky and Migachev, who both fled to the USA after resigning from the Moscow Laboratory in August 2015. The Russian authorities argue that Dr. Rodchenkov took six months to allege State doping, and the trio had almost two years in which to manipulate the LIMS handed to WADA in 2017.

Both WADA and the Russian authorities agree that remote manipulations to the Moscow LIMS continued between November 2015 and June 2016. The Russian authorities argue that manipulations were made from a Los Angeles IP address using the account ‘olegmigachev’. WADA ‘acquired’ the Moscow LIMS in October 2017, using it as a benchmark to assert that manipulations had been made to the LIMS it retrieved in January this year.

WADA may have to prove that the October 2017 database is both authentic and tamper free. If it is accurate that the LIMS database was recovered using an SQL Dump utilising raw data it acquired through a third party, then this may prove difficult.

If WADA is unable to prove that the October 2017 LIMS database is authentic and tamper free, then any comparisons between it and the database retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January 2019 may also fail. As such, sport integrity’s longest staring match could be set to continue.

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