20 December 2021

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 17 December 2021

Twenty four athletes competing in 16 sports from eight countries were involved in anti-doping proceedings announced during the past two weeks. Almost half (eleven) of the athletes were Russian but contrary to popular interpretation of anti-doping statistics, this doesn’t mean that Russia has a particular problem with doping.

During the Sochi 2014 Olympics, Russia didn’t report a single adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) and as such, none of its athletes were sanctioned for an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). Subsequent investigations revealed that this was because the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the State were involved in a conspiracy to cover up doping cases. By January 2018, 43 Russian competitors were identified as having committed ADRVs at Sochi 2014.

As such, the reporting of no AAFs or ADRVs ought to ring alarm bells. If a State or sporting federation isn’t sanctioning anybody for doping then that can mean only one of two things: the State/sport is squeaky clean; or it is covering up doping.

However, it is perhaps legitimate to question why RUSADA never reports the substances involved in Russian AAFs. Almost every other national anti-doping organisation (NADO) names the substance involved in an AAF. Why is Russia different? Either RUSADA doesn’t want to alert other Russian athletes to substances being used for doping; or it doesn’t want to alert the world to which substances are being used by Russian athletes. 

RUSADA’s Annual Reports have shown that therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) have risen in Russia during recent years. This doesn’t automatically suggest anything nefarious – athletes have a right to legitimate use of prohibited substances to treat genuine medical conditions. But when TUE use rises, it is important that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) monitors why that rise in TUEs has occurred.

Extract from RUSADA’s 2020 Annual Report (click to open…)

Is it because of improvements in education meaning that athletes are aware that they need advance permission to use medications that contain prohibited substances? Or is there another reason? RUSADA’s 2020 Annual Report appears to indicate that the process is being managed responsibly (see right).

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had to issue two recent public warnings, after athletes failed to apply for a TUE for prescribed medication, and then returned an AAF. This either indicates that athletes are taking chances that they won’t be tested after being prescribed medication, or that they are unaware that certain medications may contain prohibited substances. Perhaps education still has a way to go in this area.

However education can only go so far. Russian Powerlifter and Coach Narine Kotenko has found herself banned until 2034 for competing whilst banned for a second time. RUSADA hasn’t published the circumstances of the case, so it is possible that Kotenko has been sanctioned for something as innocuous as coaching athletes. A first ban extension can perhaps be explained by ignorance of the rules on competing whilst banned, but the same excuse can’t be made a second time. 

Finally, the Russian Triathlon Federation (ФТР) has been sanctioned by World Triathlon, after three of its athletes were implicated in blood doping cases involving use of exogenous erythropoietin (EPO). There are questions as to whether its sanction is as effective as claimed, as the ФТР has already implemented many of the ‘sanctions’ imposed by World Triathlon, and others don’t affect it.

Decision links

Alexey Dorofeev, Narine Kotenko, Algis Neknedavicius, Oleg Gorbunov, Anton Rudoy, Nikita Churashov, Vadim Aladzhev, Fakhriddin Khasanov, Vladislav Moshkin, and Akhmed Ibragimov (details);
Svetlana Kubyshkina and Bernard Luzi (details);
Madeline Wethington, Trey Lampkin and Bojan Sendekovic (details);
Jakub Świerczok, Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel, Sebastian Wiktorzak, Djordje Brzovan and Vladimir Mitic (details);
Himasha Eshan (details);
Romana Slavinec and Martin Stockinger (details);
Grace Bowlby

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