SII Focus 14th January 2016

WADA Independent Commission Part 1: Recap

On 9 November 2015 the World Anti-Doping Agency appointed an Independent Commission to investigate allegations of systematic doping in Russian athletics. The investigation followed allegations made in a 2014 German television documentary entitled: ‘Top Secret Doping: How Russia makes its winners’. The report found that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) conspired to hide doping in Russian athletics. For a detailed analysis of its findings, please click here.

The members of the Independent Commission panel are:

The report was filled with revelations regarding a number of perceived failures within the Russian anti-doping system, and was filled with recommendations on how to correct them:

One aspect that came under scrutiny was the treatment of athletes, many of whom had been exploited for financial gain by athletics officials:

Notably, the report showed that the issue was not only a problem within ARAF, but within the IAAF also. Today’s WADA IC report will specifically address these issues – the IC was waiting until decisions were taken on criminal prosecutions:

One of the headline revelations of the report was that WADA accredited laboratories in Moscow and in Lausanne had, allegedly against WADA instructions, destroyed samples taken from athletes.

 

The Lausanne Laboratory had many questions to answer in the report. “We did nothing illegal and always respected the procedures”, Martial Saugy, a Director of the Lausanne laboratory, told Swiss media. An internal report has since cleared the Lausanne Laboratory of breaking WADA rules.

The WADA Independent Commission also recommended that the IAAF ban the Russian athletics federation (ARAF), pending Code-compliance:

 


The report revealed that the WADA-accredited Lab in Moscow deliberately destroyed 1,417 samples after being instructed by WADA to store them.

The WADA Independent Commission also reported that the Director of the Moscow Lab extorted money from athletes to cover-up positive tests:

The issue was deep rooted in Russian athletics, and a number of high profile individuals were implicated:

The WADA Independent Commission also paid tribute to the whistleblowers, without whom the revelations may not have surfaced:

 

The aftermath…

The IAAF published a 30-page response, denying allegations that it covered up doping and is systemically corrupt. The document was designed to ‘reassure the athletics community that it has not been failing to take effective action in the fight against doping’ as reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative. In the document, the IAAF denied that it ‘covered up’ doping, but admitted that there were ‘unexplained and suspicious delays’ in the results management process ranging from three to six months in the cases of four athletes. ‘There is no systemic corruption within the IAAF’, it reads.

The IAAF Ethics Commission served bans to high level officials for allegedly conspiring together to extort €450,000 from an athlete. ‘A system was put in place at the IAAF level under which athletes with an abnormal blood passport profile would be allowed to keep competing at high level in exchange of cash payments made to the IAAF’, reads WADA’s evidence in the Commission’s report.

The case concerned evidence given from whistleblower and long distance runner, Liliya Shobukhova, who alleged that high level officials conspired to blackmail her in order to allow her to compete at the London 2012 Olympics. This scheme was orchestrated to a level which allegedly involved forgery of a signed ‘acceptance of sanction’ form, as the Commission found Shobukhova ‘denied that the signature is hers and a handwriting expert has opined that it is a forgery.’

The banned officials are:

ARAF is currently being investigated by the IAAF Inspection Team, which will verify the reforms programme in Russia to enable the federation to regain IAAF membership – that membership was revoked after the IAAF decided to provisionally suspend Russia. In order to be reinstated, ARAF must adhere to strict reinstatement and verification criteria. ARAF surprisingly accepted their ban without appeal, and reforms began in November, shortly after the report was released, as was reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative.

Meanwhile, a Moscow Court has accepted ARAF’s defamation claim in relation to the two documentaries produced by journalist Hajo Seppelt for ARD about doping. However, the Independent Commission praised Seppelt for “a fine piece of investigative journalism.”

The current president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe is also under increasing scrutiny, as it has been suggested that he either knew or should have known about the systematic culture of doping in Russia. Coe was appointed Vice President of the IAAF in 2007, and took over from Lamine Diack as President in September this year. Diack was arrested by French police in November, and is now subject to an investigation being coordinated by Interpol.

Today, at 3pm CET, the WADA Independent Commission will release part two of its report. It will interesting to see who – in its view – was involved in ‘corruption and bribery practices at the highest level of international athletics’. Athletes, sport and the public will be watching with bated breath.

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