SII Focus 26 October 2022

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 21 October 2022

Fifteen athletes from nine countries, competing in nine sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light in the past week. Cases included a former world number one tennis player returning an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for an anti-anaemia drug; two Kenyan distance runners returning AAFs and another being sanctioned for an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) involving Erythropoietin (EPO); a Polish relay specialist being sanctioned for ‘whereabouts’ failures after initially being cleared; and a horse sanctioned for use of cannabidiol.

Kamila Valieva case

Media focus returned to Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva (Ками́ла Вали́ева), after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) announced that the outcome of her case would remain confidential due to her status as a minor. ‘In order to protect the interests of an athlete skater and member of an ROC team who is a protected person, RUSADA declares that, in accordance with Clause 4.1 of the International Standard for Results Management, all processes and procedures related to results management, including the charge and the final decision, are confidential’, read RUSADA’s Statement. ‘Strictly observing the principles of international and Russian anti-doping standards, and also taking into account the nature and circumstances of the case, RUSADA does not intend to announce the date of the hearing, the decision or other details in the case of the skater-member of the ROC team’.

The World Anti-Doping Code states that procedures relating to minors should remain private…

RUSADA’s decision not to publicise details of the case isn’t new. In February, it explained that in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code and the International Standard for Results Management (ISRM), it hadn’t disclosed the details of Valieva’s case due to her status as a minor. The International Testing Agency (ITA) agreed that the case should have remained private.

Valieva’s case became public knowledge due to media reports about a delay in the figure skating medal ceremony at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The ITA – the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) anti-doping partner – announced that as the media had ‘reported wildly on the basis of unofficial information’, it was in the public interest to announce her AAF for Trimetazidine.

As the Moscow Laboratory is currently suspended, a sample from a test at the Russian figure skating championships on Christmas Day 2021 was sent to Stockholm for analysis. RUSADA received the results on 7 February this year, blaming delays in sample analysis on ‘another wave’ of Covid-19 in Sweden.

RUSADA notified Valieva, the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Skating Union (ISU), and the ITA about her provisional suspension on 8 February. This was after she’d helped the Russian team secure Gold in the Beijing 2022 team event on 7 February. 

RUSADA’s Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee (DADC) lifted Valieva’s provisional suspension on 9 February, and again RUSADA notified the IOC, WADA, the ISU and the ITA. All parties immediately appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The full CAS Ad-Hoc Division delivered its verdict on 14 February, a day before Valieva competed in the Beijing 2022 Women’s Single Figure Skating on 15 February. The Decision (PDF below) highlighted a gap in the World Anti-Doping Code.

The Code specifies that different standards of evidence and more lenient sanctions are applicable to ‘protected persons’ such as minors. But it doesn’t explain how anti-doping organisations should approach provisional suspensions in such cases. 

‘The WADC does not provide an exemption to a mandatory Provisional Suspension for a non-specified substance used by a Protected Person even though the ultimate sanction range for the Protected Person is the same as for other categories of athletes who can avoid a mandatory Provisional Suspension’, reads the Decision. ‘Accordingly, the Panel determines that in cases involving Protected Persons, their Provisional Suspensions should be evaluated as optional Provisional Suspensions under WADC 2021 Article 7.4.2 and its progeny. The Panel determines that Ms Valieva was entitled to benefit from being subject to an optional Provisional Suspension as a Protected Person and that, under the facts and circumstances, the option not to impose a Provisional Suspension should have been exercised so that she would not be prevented to compete in the OWG 2022.’

The Decision also reveals that RUSADA opposed the DADC’s lifting of Valieva’s provisional suspension. In its arguments presented to the DADC, RUSADA stated that the provisional suspension was mandatory unless Valieva could establish that her AAF was caused by a contaminated product. It wrote: ‘It did not appear to RUSADA that, in the time available, the Athlete had been able to gather sufficient evidence to establish that the presence of trimetazidine in the A Sample was most likely caused by the use of a Contaminated Product’.

A number of questions remain:

1. Three substances declared on Valieva’s Doping Control Form (DCF) 

The CAS Decision mentions that Valieva declared L-Carnitine, Supradyn and Hypoxen4, none of which contain Trimetazidine. Who gave the 15 year old those substances to take and why?

2. How did Trimetazidine get into Valieva’s system? 

Valieva’s mother said she was taking supplements to treat heart problems…

Valieva argued contamination via her grandfather, who has an artificial heart. His medication contains Trimetazidine. A video was produced showing him with a packet of Trimetazidine MV, but it was argued that Trimetazidine is available via prescription only and no prescription was produced. However, a Google search reveals that Trimetazidine can be bought online, and Valieva only had 48 hours to prepare a defence. Valieva’s mother said that Valieva was taking supplements for heart problems (see right). Is there medical evidence for this?

3. Appeal dates 

The CAS Decision mentions that the IOC and WADA filed appeals before being notified by RUSADA about the grounds for the DADC Decision. Yet the dates given in the Decision suggest that the appeals were filed after RUSADA notified the IOC and WADA about the lifting of Valieva’s provisional suspension. While it is possible that the IOC and WADA announced their intention to appeal before filing appeals with CAS, this needs clarifying. At CAS, Valieva’s legal team suggested that appealing before receiving the grounds of the DADC Decision demonstrates ‘unjust motives’.

4. Investigation of Valieva’s support team

In February, RUSADA announced that it would be investigating Valieva’s entourage. Russia’s Federal and Medical Biological Agency (FMBA) is responsible for preparing Russian athletes for international competition. In March last year, the FMBA announced that 15 Doctors worked on preparing its athletes for the Stockholm 2021 World Figure Skating Championships (see below).

Valieva didn’t compete in Stockholm but a team of 20 FMBA Doctors travelled to Beijing, where Valieva did compete, to assist the national team (see below). That team was headed by Andrey Zholinskiy (Андрей Жолинский), the Director of the FMBA and a member of the Scientific Expert Council of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). He is considered to be Chief Physician to the Russian Olympic team. 

Andrey Zholinskiy is a Director of the FMBA & Chief Physician to the Russian Olympic team…

The CAS Decision outlines that on 12 February, the ROC sent a question to the World Anti-Doping Code drafting team about the lack of clarity about how provisional suspensions apply to ‘protected persons’. Zholinskiy was also the ‘medical expert’ called by Valieva’s defence at CAS. He explained that Trimetazidine is prohibited for use by minors and put forward contamination via heart medication used by Valieva’s grandfather as a possibility. However, that theory has been questioned. 

It also appears that the FMBA may have given supplements contaminated with Trimetazidine to Russian athletes in the past. In 2018, Nadezhda Sergeeva (Надежда Сергеева) came to a settlement agreement with the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) over an ADRV involving Trimetazidine at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The Settlement Agreement – a copy of which is held by The Sports Integrity Initiative – reveals that the source of Sergeeva’s AAF was a contaminated supplement. 

A lawsuit was launched by Sergeeva against the FMBA, which she alleged had given her the supplement leading to her AAF. It was dismissed by the State courts.

Philip Shvetsky (Филипп Шветский) is a Doctor with the Russian figure skating team, as confirmed in the Russian figure skating federation (FSR) magazine and by the first FMBA Instagram post, above. He has been put forward as a potential culprit for Valieva’s AAF by the Russian media. It is alleged that he was involved with use of prohibited infusions by the Russian rowing team that led to its disqualification from the 2007 World Championships. His Instagram page has been cited as proof that he has worked with Valieva. However, his Instagram profile was only launched late last year and appears to have been replaced with a new profile.

The Head of the Medical Department at the FSR is Alexander Ozerov (Александр Озеров), a Doctor who works for the FMBA. He refused to discuss Valieva’s case following questions from Sport Express in February, and has not commented on the case since.

As mentioned in the CAS Decision, the 15 year old Valieva is considered a ‘protected person’ under the World Anti-Doping Code. Punishment for those responsible for doping a ‘protected person’ are severe. ‘An Article 2.7 or Article 2.8 violation [Trafficking or Administration] involving a Protected Person shall be considered a particularly serious violation and, if committed by Athlete Support Personnel for violations other than for Specified Substances, shall result in lifetime Ineligibility for Athlete Support Personnel’, reads Article 10.3.3 of the Code. 

The FMBA recently held a meeting with the State Duma on Physical Culture and Sports about the legal regulations for medical and biological support for the Russian national team, where two legislative Bills were discussed. ‘The first is a government Bill submitted to the State Duma, which is aimed at combating doping and enshrines the term “specialist in sports medicine” in the legislation’, read a Statement. ‘The document proposes to introduce liability for medical workers who have committed violations of anti-doping laws. The second legislative initiative empowers the FMBA of Russia with powers, including issues of medical rehabilitation and recovery of athletes.’

If the FMBA or its Doctors are found to be responsible for Valieva’s AAF, then that could have consequences for the entire Russian sporting infrastructure. The above suggests that the Russian authorities are already taking measures to mitigate this threat.

5. Public interest vs. privacy

A full hearing into whether Valieva has committed an ADRV is due to be conducted soon. All anti-doping samples are split into two ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples. As Valieva’s ‘A’ sample resulted in an AAF for a small amount of Trimetazidine (2.1ng/mL), she has requested analysis of her ‘B’ sample. If results from that are negative, there may be no case to answer. Up until now, the case has merely been about whether a provisional suspension should have been lifted to allow Valieva to compete at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

“If she is rightfully exonerated, then there is nothing to hide and it should be made public”, Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency told InsideTheGames. “Certainly, keeping the decision and facts secret makes a mockery of the whole process and there is no wonder athletes and the public do not trust the global WADA anti-doping system. WADA, ISU and the IOC should immediately announce an appeal against any such decision and hold an open process, as the rules provide, so that there is confidence in the final outcome. Short of this, it’s impossible for athletes or the public to believe what happened at the 2022 Beijing Games was real and not just another fraudulent win by the Russians like so many before, as the evidence has clearly shown.”

However, as previously explained, the Code and ISRM are clear that anti-doping proceedings involving minors should remain private. Yet both the ITA and the CAS published details about the case including the full CAS Ad-Hoc Decision, citing public interest. The Code isn’t clear about whether WADA, the ITA or the CAS is permitted to do this.

‘Except as provided in Articles 14.3.1 and 14.3.3, no Anti-Doping Organization or WADA-accredited laboratory, or official of either, shall publicly comment on the specific facts of any pending case (as opposed to general description of process and science) except in response to public comments attributed to, or based on information provided by the Athlete, other Person or their entourage or other representatives’, reads Article 14.3.4 of the Code. ‘The mandatory Public Disclosure required in 14.3.2 shall not be required where the Athlete or other Person who has been found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation is a Minor, Protected Person or Recreational Athlete. Any optional Public Disclosure in a case involving a Minor, Protected Person or Recreational Athlete shall be proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the case.’

If the CAS and WADA are able to publish its Decisions relating to minor athletes, this also raises questions as to whether the Code’s privacy provisions relating to protected persons are effective. Valieva’s case also poses a difficult question as to whether another anti-doping organisation (ADO) can reassert privacy measures designed to protect minors from public scrutiny, once details of a case have already been made public. 

Article 14.1.2 of the Code requires any Decision to be provided to an athlete’s international federation and WADA, as well as to the athlete’s national anti-doping organisation (NADO). So WADA and the ISU will receive any Decision on Valieva’s case, irrespective of any privacy controls. If, having received the Decision, any of these organisations appeal against it, does this mean that the results of that appeal must remain confidential? Again, the Code isn’t clear on this.

Other cases

Former World number one Simona Halep has vowed to fight to clear her name, after she returned an AAF for FG-4592 (Roxadustat). ‘I will fight until the end to prove that I never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that sooner or later, the truth will come out’, she wrote on Instagram (below). She also received the support of her Coach (below).

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Simona Halep (@simonahalep)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by THE COACH (@patrickmouratoglou)

However, anti-doping jurisprudence suggests she may face difficulty. In August 2016, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned Chilean Carlos Oyarzun with a four-year ban, over a year after he tested positive for FG-4592. On 29 July 2014, the UCI suspended the Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec Pro Continental team for 30 days, after rider Fabio Taborre reported an adverse analytical finding for FG-4592. He was later sanctioned with a four year ban. In April 2014, the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) confirmed that Bertrand Moulinet had returned a positive test for FG-4592. The race-walker received a four year ban a year later.

FG-4592 (Roxadustat) is a compound that stimulates the production of Erythropoietin (EPO) inside the body (endogenous). Unlike exogenous (externally administered) EPO, it is available in pill form and works in combatting anaemia by increasing an individual’s ability to produce red blood cells. 

As red blood cells contain iron, this helps combat anaemia, but red blood cells also carry oxygen around the body – specifically to the muscles. It is also understood that FG-4592 doesn’t raise blood pressure in the same way as EPO, reducing the risk of heart attacks due to ‘thickened’ blood. 

The filing of ‘whereabouts’ information by elite athletes continues to ensnare athletes. The latest victim is Polish sprinter Jakuba Krzewinę. 

Krzewinę is a member of a Registered Testing Pool (RTP). As such, he must supply ‘whereabouts’ information indicating where he will be available for testing for one hour in every 24. This is in addition to information on his overnight accommodation, competition schedule, as well as ‘regular activities’ – for example, training sessions. A Doping Control Officer (DCO) can turn up to test an athlete at any of these locations at any time.

Athletes that feature in an RTP must file this information through WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS), in advance, for the next three months (although locations can later be amended). Under Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, any combination of three Missed Tests or Filing Failures by an athlete in an RTP within a 12 month period is considered an ADRV, subject to a two year ban. 

A Missed Test is recorded when an athlete is unavailable during their specified 60 minute window. A Filing Failure is recorded where an athlete’s failure to update their whereabouts results in DCOs turning up at the athlete’s address or training session – for example – only to discover that the athlete is at another location.

On his Facebook page (below), Krzewinę explains that his first filing failure occurred on 4 September 2020, when a DCO turned up at his home address while he was in hospital having a hernia operation that had been brought forward, during the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘After not finding me at my home address, I received a call from the DCO asking if I would be able to get home in a dozen or so minutes’, writes Krzewinę. ‘Of course, this was impossible because I had only been awake a short while after the operation’.

Krzewinę argues that the original date of the operation was 17 September, however that was two days before his wedding. He says he only found out about the new date two days prior to the operation and due to the stress of the situation, he forgot to update his whereabouts. ‘The best thing about it is that even if I had updated my details for doping control, nothing would have come to pass because it was the Covid period and nobody was admitted to hospital expect patients and hospital staff’, he writes.

The second filing failure took place in December 2020, after Krzewinę missed an email stating that he would be included in the RTP for 2021. He argued that he had previously been informed about his inclusion in the RTP by letter and as he has two email addresses, missed the email from the Polish Anti-Doping Agency (POLADA).

After being informed by a training partner about the email, he completed the data for the first quarter of 2021. However despite the fact that POLADA didn’t turn up to test him in January 2021, he received a warning. 

Krzewinę states that this aspect of the case was the reason that the POLADA Disciplinary Panel dismissed his whereabouts charge – a Decision that was successfully appealed by WADA at the CAS. ‘POLADA sent the notification by CC email only and nothing to the home address indicated by me, as was the case before’, he writes. ‘In the letters sent, they indicated three different dates for completing the data (one in the text of the message, another in the letter enclosed in the email, and another in the next message). I was also informed in the letter that this was my first violation (it was my second).’

Krzewinę argues that the third whereabouts failure took place on 30 March 2021, at a Polish athletics federation (PZLA) training camp. ‘We decided to extend the training camp’, he explains. ‘I changed the data in the ADAMS application. On the last day, I was woken by a phone call from my wife saying that the DCO was waiting for me at my address. I turned on the application and it turned out that I entered the data without taking into account the last day. Why would I make the change without entering the last day? POLADA knows about these training camps and can also test us there.’

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to our editor by clicking here. Also, if you’re an athlete, national anti-doping organisation (NADO) or other Results Management Authority and you’d like us to cover a case that you’re involved with, please get in touch! Also – a reminder. The SII Anti-Doping Monitor only features confirmed AAFs (‘positive tests’) or confirmed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs).

Decision links

Ibrahim Mukunga Wachira, Keneth Kiprop Renju (AIU List of Provisional Suspensions);

Rene Navarrete (USADA Decision);

Jakuba Krzewinę (Statement from POLADA CEO; Statement from athlete);

Anton Kotlyarov (RUSADA Statement);

Alexandra Sabitova (RUSADA Statement);

Sergey Kadin (RUSADA Statement);

Ben Harrison (UKAD Statement, full Decision);

Valeri Nichushkin (Russian hockey federation Statement & IIHF Statement, sent via email: ‘During the results management process, based on a supplementary independent expert opinion commissioned by the IIHF, the IIHF determined that the information extracted from the LIMS database did not establish that a doping violation occurred. As a result, the IIHF closed the case. A news release was not issued as the IIHF only issues news releases in cases where the IIHF has determined that a doping violation has occurred, and this is confirmed either via an admission of the player or via an IIHF Disciplinary Board decision.’);

Marius Kipserem (AIU List of First Instance Decisions, full Decision);

Orlando Galo Calderón (Costa Rican football federation Statement; club Statement);

Lorenzo Milani (NADO Italia Statement);

Dario Santoro (NADO Italia Statement);

Aleksandar Jankulov/Tekila (ADAS Statement);

Simona Halep (ITIA Statement; Halep’s Statement; Coach’s Statement)

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