26th February 2017

WADA warned IFs about insufficiency of McLaren Report evidence

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has admitted that the evidence in the Independent Person (IP) reports into systemic Russian doping prepared for it by Richard McLaren may not be sufficient for international federations (IFs) to bring successful cases against athletes for anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs). WADA made the admission during a 21 February meeting with the IFs designed to provide assistance to the IFs in interpreting the evidence compiled by the Canadian lawyer and his team, according to an open letter from IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper, published on 23 February (PDF below). WADA also apparently wrote to the IFs on 19 January to inform them about ‘some of the discrepancies or issues that have been identified since the publication of the report’.

‘It was admitted by WADA that in many cases, the evidence provided may not be sufficient to bring successful cases’, reads the letter. ‘IFs were told by WADA to make direct contact with the IP team to try to obtain further information. WADA also explained that the translations used by the IP team were not adequate and was obtaining official translations of some of the texts.’ Interestingly, in what appears to be a partial reversal of the presumption of innocence legal principle, the IOC has already asked that in the period leading up to the PyeonChang 2018 Winter Olympics, every eligible Russian athlete ‘undergo anti-doping tests with higher benchmarks than for athletes from other countries’.

The IOC letter has been seized upon by Russian media as an admission that there is a lack of evidence that Russian athletes have doped. Coupled with the allegations against Alberto Salazar and Nike Oregon Project officials, Russian media have also accused WADA of double standards.

Mikhail Prokhorov, a President of the Russian Biathlon Union from 2008-2014 and a powerful industrialist who has entered politics, has suggested that Russia sue WADA for compensation. In a column written specifically for Kommersant, Prokhorov wrote that Russia should ‘sue McLaren and WADA on behalf of each athlete, mentioned in the report, for libel. Require one million dollars compensation (at least) for each claim. Let WADA bother to prove the guilt of athletes or pay for libel.’

The IOC also points out that the Schmid Commission, which was established by the IOC to investigate allegations of systematic manipulation of doping samples, also faces issues in analysing the evidence compiled by McLaren. ‘For instance, in his first interim report, Professor McLaren describes a “state-sponsored system” whilst in the final full report in December he described an “institutional conspiracy”’, reads the letter. ‘The Commission will now have to consider what this change means’.

The letter’s publication is likely to threaten the armistice agreed between the IOC and WADA at its Foundation Board meeting in November, after IOC members spoke out about WADA’s handling of the Russian situation. As the letter mentions the importance of establishing a testing authority ‘independent from sports organisations and from national interests’, perhaps that was its intention. WADA issued a media statement on 25 February confirming the discussions that had taken place at the 21 February meeting, and pointing out that part two of the WADA IP Report, released on 9 December last year, was ‘never intended to determine whether or not individual athletes identified had committed an ADRV’.

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