29th October 2021

Who is Mikhail Bukhanov? Part two…

Exactly a year after the Founders of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) dismissed Yuriy Ganus (Ю́рий Га́нус) as Director General, it was announced that an ‘open competition’ would be held for his replacement. Mikhail Bukhanov (Михаил Буханов) was the temporary replacement appointed by those same Founders a year ago. 

Bukhanov is still in place as acting Director General, and is so far the only candidate who has publicly expressed interest in the position. He argues that he has grown to become well suited for the role. This is partly due to his theological background.

Church Minister

Bukhanov argues that he has never hidden the fact that he has both a legal background and a theological education. However, although RUSADA publicised his legal work, it didn’t mention his work as a Minister as part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). 

“My work shop – Mikhail Vestment – was one of the main providers of Orthodox Priest Vestments in the USA and Canada, because I’m corpore et animo, a part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)”, he told The Sports Integrity Initiative. “To be a clergy person is not a profession or work – it is always a calling. To teach and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, it became a tradition for every ROCOR church Minister to conduct their own business – for example to manage an organisation, to be a Lawyer, or a Doctor. Bishops, Monks, and Priests around the world are very often Managers and professionals in other spheres. I think this is good.”

Bukhanov says that when he was appointed by Ganus, he didn’t think that he would be managing the organisation as acting Director General. “God always has plans for people and situations”, he says. “As we say – ‘man proposes and God disposes’. This is what always happens and has happened in my situation.”

Anti-doping as a religious calling

Bukhanov sees his theological background as an advantage in the fight against doping. “I really think that to fight against doping is a mission”, he argues. “The main motto of my life is try to live not according to a lie, as the great writer [and Soviet dissident, Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn said. What is doping according to the Bible? It is a great sin. It is theft. When you dope you steal sports victories from other athletes. That is why all doping cases are a crude violation of the Bible.”

He also argues that sport should embrace confession. “Sport is a public event and doping is a public sin that should be confessed publicly. The main aim is to change yourself to start to to live not according to a lie. The public confession of every athlete who ever doped could save world sport. 

“Let’s confess our sins publicly and let’s be better. I think we should publicly praise an athlete who wants to say “Yes, I cheated, I did doping”. Because this confession displays real Olympic courage. Confession should be a part of real sport.”

Soviet atheism led to doping

Bukhanov argues that the atheism enforced during Soviet times was the root that allowed doping to take hold and develop. Morals and the idea of sin were eclipsed by a ruthless drive for progress administered by a cruel regime. The idea of progress at any cost extended to sport.

“The Church and religious life were under strict prohibition for 70 years. The only result from this can be a crisis in all spheres of social life, especially in sport. The doping crisis is a result of atheism for 70 years. Sport remained without values.” 

Bukhanov maintains that sport needs to publicly confess its past first – every individual needs to look into their own soul to understand where Russian sport is today. “This is our problem and we should fight it through personal responsibility and open dialogue”, he says. “The most important change in the world of sport during recent years is that on a universal ground, the world has anti-doping regulations. Through the World Anti-Doping Code, doping problems all over the world have been put under the control of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“The doping disease can be resolved only by such a universal police function, by universal regulation. At the same time, we are now only in the middle of this world experiment. If world sport became cleaner in the near future, it would mean the success of this universal model of resolving social problems and destruction.”

Bukhanov suggests that the WADA model could be applicable in solving other global problems. “By fighting doping we will be able to change the world in any sphere. In the same way, the World Agency against Hunger, World Agency against Climate Change could appear. I don’t mean in a similar way to the United Nations model – I mean new types of community-based agencies connected via one network where every person can take part, fight the problem and change the world. We just need to take one step towards that new world.”

Crossroads

In an interview with Match TV, Bukhanov argues that RUSADA has become a “bargaining chip” for power between political systems. There is perhaps some truth in this. Many, still stung by the length and complexity of Russian State doping, are wary of any State involvement in RUSADA. However, a strong RUSADA is critical for global confidence in Russian sport.

The influence that RUSADA’s Supervisory Board has over decision making (click to open)…

Most national anti-doping agencies (NADOs) are funded by the State. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) receives a grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) receives Grant in Aid from the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); and RUSADA is funded by Russia’s Ministry of Finance. However, as illustrated in our previous article, Supervisory Board members have a huge potential influence over RUSADA decisions.

The ROC & RPC are amongst the partners of the International Health Centre, one of RUSADA’s two ‘Members’…

In January, RUSADA’s Founders – the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) – were removed after they were deemed to compromise RUSADA’s independence by the World Anti-Doping Agency.  The Russian bar association (ARLF or АЮР) is now one of the two ‘Members’ (the term ‘Founders’ is no longer used) of RUSADA listed on its internet site alongside the International Health Center (МЦОЗ), which counts the ROC and RPC – RUSADA’s ‘Founders’ – as clients. 

On 25 October, ARLF announced the opening of competition to fill the vacant post of RUSADA Director General. Detailed requirements were only available via application from RUSADA and were to be submitted using a gmail address.

Three days later, on 27 October, ARLF held a ‘general meeting of the Founders of RUSADA’, it announced. It was decided that ‘none of the 170-plus announced candidates received the required number of votes’. The application process has now been extended until 1 November.

On 15 September, WADA Management met Russia’s Ministry of Sport in Istanbul about RUSADA’s reinstatement…

On 15 September, WADA management met with Russia’s Ministry of Sport, and one of the topics discussed was the appointment of a new RUSADA Director General. RUSADA wasn’t at that meeting and neither was Bukhanov. He was in Ozersk (Озёрск) in the Chelyabinsk Oblast (Челя́бинская о́бласть), signing an agreement with a hockey club for veterans of Russian special forces. 

It would therefore appear that WADA, the Russian Ministry of Sport, and RUSADA’s ‘Members’, including its ‘Founders’, have decided that Bukhanov isn’t suitable for the position of permanent Director General. It would also appear that the ARLF has dismissed his candidature. 

The Russian Ministry of Sport is a State body; RUSADA’s ‘Members’ have links to its ‘Founders’ – the ROC and RPC; and the ARLF was founded in 2005 by State officials. They are the ones that allowed Bukhanov to remain in place for a year, and now want him removed. Is this the ‘independence’ that WADA insists it is critical that RUSADA displays?

RUSADA has faced accusations that it is under control of the State for almost a decade. What better way to demonstrate independence than to appoint a person who is guided by his spiritual and theological beliefs?

• Part one of ‘Who is Mikhail Bukhanov?’ is available here.

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