15 June 2016

WADA report shows serious issues remain with testing in Russia

A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) update on the status of testing athletes in Russia for prohibited substances has shown that a number of serious issues remain, some of which involve sports that fall under the jurisdiction of the Russian athletics federation (RusAF). On Friday, the Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is due to decide whether Russia has done enough for RusAF to be readmitted ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics. WADA’s report, which it has shared with the IAAF Anti-Doping Task Force, suggests that it has not.

The report (PDF below) found that closed cities, where access is restricted, were utilised to deter testing of athletes; that UK Anti Doping’s (UKAD) completed tests in Russia were outnumbered by cancelled tests; that athletes ran away from testers or withdrew from events where Doping Control Officers (DCOs) were present; that the doping control process was tampered with or interfered with by certain sports; that sample collection procedures make blood testing almost impossible; and more.

‘Closed’ cities

The WADA report corroborated claims made in last week’s ARD documentary, ‘Geheimsache Doping: Showdown for Russia’, that cities where public access is restricted are being used by Russian athletes for training. In fact, the WADA report goes further, stating that ‘National Championships for Olympic sports including Olympic qualifiers’ were held in such cities, and ‘as a result, the national weightlifting and national Greco-Roman wrestling championships were not tested’ at all – a worry ahead of Rio.

It also alleged that the Russian race-walking championship was held in a closed city in February, and that security staff caused ‘significant delays’ for DCOs in entering venues and were monitored once inside. The same was true for the Russian wrestling championships in May. The report also corroborated ARD’s claims that DCOs were intimidated when attempting to gain access to closed cities by armed state police (FSB).

Worryingly, WADA also found that closed cities are often listed on athlete whereabouts forms, suggesting that athletes know special permission is required to allow access. ‘Athletes provide this location even if they aren’t there, to deter test planning’, reads the report.

It also says that the process to access Russia’s closed cities began in February. On 27 May, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) said that access had been granted, but ‘no official access documentation has been provided by the Russian Ministry of Sport’.

UKAD issues

UKAD began working with RUSADA and WADA to test athletes in Russia in February. It has managed to carry out 455 tests on Russian athletes up until 29 May, however 73 of those (16%) were not collected, and a whopping 736 tests were declined or cancelled, mainly due to lack of capacity regarding sample collection – as UKAD Chair David Kenworthy explained at the Culture Media and Sport (CMS) Committee hearing yesterday, there are simply not enough DCOs. Also, 22 requests to test at competitions were declined.

The report also reveals that there was a delay of almost a month between the agreement for UKAD to test in Russia being sent to RUSADA and it being returned, signed. A service contract agreement was further delayed, which is apparently the reason why UKAD did not start testing in Russia until 15 February.

Evasion and tampering

Worryingly for RusAF, the WADA report says that one athlete was seen ‘running away from the notification area/mixed zone after competing and prior to the chaperone attempting notification’. Another athlete under RusAF’s jurisdiction ‘exited the stadium during her race and could not be located’. Fifteen athletes at the Russian race-walking championships, which also falls under RusAF jurisdiction, ‘either did not start, withdrew or were disqualified – six of the athletes had whereabouts showing for other cities and not for Sochi where the event was held’.

Another athlete falling under RusAF’s jurisdiction ‘used a container inserted in her body (presumably containing clean urine)’, reads the report. ‘When she tried to use the container, it leaked onto the floor and not into the collection vessel. The athlete threw the container into the trash, which was retrieved by the DCO. The athlete also tried to bribe the DCO. Eventually, the athlete provided a sample which subsequently returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF).’

Other issues

The report also found that athletes failed to return their whereabouts information when entered into the National Registered Testing Pool (NRTP) and that national federations were also ‘non-responsive’ in providing information. This problem was exacerbated by some of the national federations not having the correct contact details for their athletes, and sometimes by outright obstruction to testing.

‘At a boxing training camp (8 June), DCOs reported that officials initially refused to provide a list of athletes present and delayed the presentation of that list for an hour’, reads the report. It also highlighted that it is near impossible to operate an Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), as ‘all samples must pass through Moscow’ and an Athlete Biological Passport Management Unit (APMU) is not in place, meaning that ‘no atypical passports are being reviewed’.

This requirement for all samples to go through Moscow may explain why the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) required all samples at the 2015 Kazan World Championships to be analysed in Russia, despite Russia being under investigation at the time. It was reported by ARD at the time that Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed an order requiring all samples to be opened at the border. FINA normally uses Swedish company IDTM to analyse samples, and issued a statement admitting that the Kazan tests were analysed by the Moscow laboratory, but stated that in 2015, the ‘great majority of the samples collected in Russia were analysed in the WADA-accredited laboratories in Barcelona and Köln’. FINA has questions to answer about why it let that happen.

Rabbit hole

Rather than suggesting that Russia has reformed, WADA’s report suggests new depths of complicity in systemic Russian doping. Worryingly for Russia and its athletes, it also suggests that sports other than athletics are involved, which could spur the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into considering disciplinary action regarding Rio 2016.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of WADA’s report is the suggestion that the Russian state requires all doping samples to be sent through Moscow. ARD’s latest documentary claimed that state police protected banned race-walking coach, Viktor Chegin, from continuing to operate. The Russian Ministry of Sport has consistently denied that the state is involved in Russian doping, but now the evidence appears to be mounting against it.

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