25 November 2019

Tentative RusAF reforms as WADA recommends severe action

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has called for the replacement of the entire management team of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), after World Athletics suspended the RusAF reinstatement process. However, RusAF has only accepted resignations from two of five RusAF officials charged by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics with failing to cooperate with – and obstructing – an anti-doping investigation. And one of those remains listed as a member of World Athletics’ Technical Committee. 

‘If this recommendation is not taken into consideration, we will consider the question of RusAF’s membership of the ROC at our next Executive Committee meeting’, read an ROC statement. The Russian Ministry of Sports has scheduled meeting for Wednesday 27 November, where it will consider whether to maintain RusAF’s State accreditation as the national federation for athletics, a RusAF statement revealed. 

On Saturday, Dmitry Shlyakhtin resigned as President of RusAF, following charges issued against him by the AIU last week. Yuliya Tarasenko (Юлию Тарасенко), a former middle distance runner and President of the St. Petersburg Athletics Federation since 2014,  was unveiled as RusAF’s new acting President. 

Mikhail Butov

RusAF also accepted the resignation of Artur Karamyan, RusAF Board Member and President of the Moscow Regional Athletics Federation where Danil Lysenko, the high jumper involved in the case which the AIU accuses RusAF of obstructing, competes. RusAF also accepted the resignation of Mikhail Butov from the RusAF Council. Butov told The Sports Integrity Initiative that he had resigned as General Secretary of the organisation in January 2017. 

However, RusAF Executive Director Alexander Parkin; Senior Administrator Elena Orlova; and Anti-Doping Coordinator Elena Ikonnikova, all of whom were also charged (PDF below) by the AIU, are not mentioned in a RusAF statement announcing the resignations. Orlova is still listed as a member of World Athletics’ Technical Committee.

World Athletics will wait for answers from the AIU, which has given RusAF until 12 December to respond to its charges, before recommending any action to the World Athletics Council. “There is an ongoing process and we have to respect that process”, said Rune Andersen, Chair of the World Athletics Taskforce on RusAF’s Reinstatement in its statement. “There are charges laid by the AIU which we need to respect, and the AIU needs to receive feedback from RusAF by 12 December. When we have the answers from the AIU on what has been going on and what the process will be, then we will convene and look at the whole structure and we will come up with recommendations to the council.”

ANAs under threat

The Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) status, which allows Russians who can prove that they are untouched by State manipulation of the doping control process to compete internationally despite RusAF’s suspension, is under threat. The World Athletics Council mandated the Taskforce and Doping Review Board to review the ANA process. 

Both will make recommendations to the World Athletics Council as to whether that mechanism can continue to be used. All ANA athlete applications are on hold until this review is complete.

Compliance Review Committee (CRC)

The CRC of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) today revealed that Russia’s manipulation of the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is much worse than first thought. The CRC found that ‘hundreds of presumptive adverse analytical findings’ that appear in a 2015 copy of the LIMS database had been removed from the version it retrieved from the Laboratory in January this year.

It found that: 

• the underlying raw data and PDF files had been deleted or altered;
• that computer systems and data files were backdated in an attempt to hide the manipulation;
• fabricated evidence was planted in the database to make it appear that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, had orchestrated the manipulation;
• Data was deleted showing that another staff member, ‘an important witness for the Russian side in several cases’, was involved has been deleted.

Standards of proof

In June, Shlyakhtin warned that there was a danger that ANA status could be withdrawn. Last week, Mariya Lasitskene warned that unless RusAF would not replace its entire staff until somebody forced it to. Both eventualities have come to pass. Yet taking further action depends on evidence.

RusAF maintains that Danil Lysenko asked Elena Orlova – one of the officials charged by the AIU – for help in translating Lysenko’s explanation for ‘whereabouts’ failures and his medical certificate, after which they were sent to World Athletics. RusAF contends that this translation process is what led to allegations of forged documentation. 

However, the AIU appears certain in its convictions, having spent 15 months investigating the case in cooperation with RUSADA. If the AIU’s charges are upheld, Russian athletes potentially face having to prove that they were not touched by a corrupt RusAF, as well as not touched by State doping, in order to be granted ANA status.

In addition, World Athletics’ Taskforce will have to live up to its name in deciding whether any athlete can demonstrate that they were not affected by State doping, given WADA’s evidence that the Moscow LIMS from 2015 was being manipulated as late as this year. Given that the Moscow Laboratory is now managed by Moscow State University – a State owned institution – can there be absolute confidence that manipulation isn’t continuing?

WADA has only ever identified a ‘whistleblower’ as the source of the copy of the Moscow LIMS database it ‘acquired’ in November 2017. Bryan Fogel’s ‘Icarus’ film shows WADA management discussing a database with Dr. Rodchenkov. The Sports Integrity Initiative understands that Dr. Rodchenkov’s former assistant, Tim Sobolevsky, began working at the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in September 2015, and with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as a whistleblower in 2017.

WADA’s assertion is that the 2015 LIMS database it retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January this year had a number of presumptive AAFs removed. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR or Sledcom) has already claimed that it held authentic copies of the database, and that Dr. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky attempted to procure copies of it. WADA’s statement on the database does use the word ‘acquired’…

If the database wasn’t provided by Dr. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky, then who provided it, and can it be considered reliable? If it was provided by Dr. Rodchenkov and Sobolevsky, can it be considered free from their own manipulation? 

Once again, standards of proof are likely to be crucial. And once again, Russian athletes and sport will suffer due to the actions of officials. There is no doubt that following the above revelations, it will be harder for a Russian athlete to be granted any necessary permissions to compete internationally. 

Often, public pressure can lead to political change. As The Sports Integrity Initiative has written before, the Russian public ought to be very angry about the whole situation. 

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