The trouble with Ostarine: Jimmy Wallhead’s
16th March 2018
At the end of August 2020, the Founders of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) appointed Mikhail Bukhanov (Михаил Буханов) as acting Director General, promising an election by April this year. Over a year later he is still in place, and appears to be the only candidate to replace his predecessor, Yuriy Ganus (Ю́рий Га́нус).
Ganus was dismissed on 28 August 2020 by RUSADA’s Founders, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC). Exactly a year later, RUSADA’s new Supervisory Board announced an ‘open competition’ for the post of Director General, whilst extending Bukhanov’s tenure until the end of the year. How ‘open’ this competition will be is subject to debate, as will be explained.
But who is Bukhanov and why has he been promoted to lead RUSADA? Why wasn’t he at a recent meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about RUSADA’s reinstatement?
Bukhanov has a background as a legal adviser in the field of civil law, and was appointed by Ganus in February 2019 to work in RUSADA’s Legal Department. He was promoted to acting Director General by the ROC and RPC, which were then listed as RUSADA’s Founders.
A statement issued at the time mentions that he was formerly Head of RUSADA’s Legal Department. However, a search using his name on RUSADA’s internet site reveals that the first mention of him is on 20 October 2020, after he replaced Ganus. His RUSADA biography contains no information about him.
It is understood that he became Head of the Legal Department after his predecessor left RUSADA. The agency’s 2018 Annual Report lists Olga Naydenova (Ольга Найденова) as Head of the Legal Department, having joined the Agency in 2016. In contrast to her, Bukhanov’s rise through the ranks appears to have been swift.
It is understood that his previous legal role ended in 2016. After this, he ran a business making vestments for the clergy. Bukhanov is the owner of Mikhail Vestment, however his Facebook profile explains that he has parked the business due to his position at RUSADA.
“This is an individual enterprise, the main activity is trade in church goods”, Bukhanov told Vedomosti Sport. “A person who immerses themselves in this can make jewellery with their own hands, as a designer product. I have been doing this for a long time. There is a niche market, and one day I decided to commercialise. I love to sew, and I even sewed church vestments. Mostly the products went to the Russian church abroad.
“There is an online store. Then there were problems with logistics, and now it is quite difficult to get everything abroad, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so the business stagnated. So I froze it so that I could devote most of my time to my work.”
Bukhanov’s rapid rise through the RUSADA ranks happened after the ROC and RPC dismissed Ganus on 28 August 2020, in circumstances that shocked the anti-doping community. An audit they commissioned alleged that Ganus was responsible for ‘financial irregularities’ at RUSADA.
This followed Ganus’s disagreement with RUSADA’s Founders on many issues, including the restoration of the ability of Russian athletes to compete internationally; his position on the changes made to the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS); on whether RUSADA should appeal the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanction for manipulation of the LIMS; whether investigations are needed into allegations of systemic youth doping in Chuvashia, and more.
Ganus disputed the audit’s findings, and alleged that RUSADA’s Charter was changed by RUSADA’s Supervisory Board to prevent his deputy, Margarita Pakhnotskaya (Маргарита Пахноцкая) from taking over his position. Pakhnotskaya resigned shortly before Ganus was dismissed.
Ganus argues that the audit commissioned by RUSADA’s Founders was an attempt to discredit RUSADA’s work as revenge for uncovering youth doping in Chuvashia, and for assisting WADA with its investigations into the Danil Lysenko (Данил Лысенко) case. In November 2019, a Report alleged intravenous infusions were being used in Chuvashia at volumes prohibited by WADA, and RUSADA estimated 74 anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) were involved.
Artem Patsev (Артем Пацев), who led the Independent Working Group (IWG) that compiled the Chuvashia Report, represented Lysenko. He took over from Paul Greene, who withdrew on 5 February 2019 after Lysenko told him he couldn’t tell the truth about document falsification for ‘personal safety reasons’.
Patsev said that this was because Lysenko felt threatened, but appeared afraid to name who was involved. This is perhaps unsurprising. Patsev has previously acted for the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) and sat on its Disciplinary Commission in 2017 and 2019. It is conceivable that Lysenko, like the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics, may have been concerned that Patsev was acting not to protect him, but to protect RusAF officials.
Patsev argues that RUSADA may have been involved in casting his role in the Lysenko case in a bad light, as revenge for allegations about RUSADA’s investigatory techniques in the IWG Report. Marina Efremova (Марина Ефремова) and Artem Afanasiev (Артем Афанасьев) from the Chuvashia region were eventually sanctioned for use/attempted use of a prohibited substance and/or method but other than this, RUSADA hasn’t publicised any statement of conclusion regarding its investigations in Chuvashia since Ganus’s dismissal.
Ganus’s predecessor at RUSADA was Anna Antseliovich (Анна Анцелиович). She reportedly represented some of the athletes involved in the Chuvash investigation in taking legal action against Ganus. She was part of RUSADA’s ‘old guard’, having worked there for six years prior to her appointment as Director General.
She was also accused of informing an athlete about when a doping test would take place, back in 2014. She is also the Head of the Sports Law practice at Patsev’s law firm, having been appointed in December 2020.
Embezzlement of State funds, of which the audit alleges Ganus is guilty, is a serious crime in any country. As such, one would expect criminal charges to be levied against Ganus. None have been forthcoming. A cynic might therefore question whether the allegations made in the audit are underpinned by facts.
Was Bukhanov considered a convenient and compliant temporary replacement? He appears to have kept his head down, until recently. And again, RusAF is involved.
Bukhanov recently told RIA Novosti that RUSADA’s status is not included in the Roadmap for the reinstatement of RusAF, and that he regards this as a “temporary tactical success”. RUSADA posted a link to the news article on its internet site.
World Athletics has confirmed that, contrary to Bukhanov’s comments, a reinstated RUSADA is crucial for RusAF’s reinstatement. Bukhanov’s comments refer to the reinstatement plan put together by RusAF in March this year (click here to download), which was approved by the World Athletics Council.
It is true that RusAF’s reinstatement plan doesn’t include any specific requirement that RUSADA must be declared as compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. However, this is a different document to World Athletics’s conditions for RusAF’s reinstatement. These were revised in December 2020 (click here to download), and they specifically require RUSADA to be able to conduct anti-doping operations for RusAF.
A RUSADA that isn’t compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code couldn’t do that. Unless RUSADA is restated, RusAF couldn’t and wouldn’t meet World Athletics’ reinstatement criteria. So, contrary to what Bukhanov and RUSADA are asserting, RUSADA must be reinstated for RusAF to be reinstated and its athletes be allowed to compete internationally again.
And that won’t happen before December 2022. RUSADA was declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code due to its failure to procure an authentic copy of the Moscow Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and underlying data for the 2011-2015 period. After a protracted appeal process, a two year sanction was applied that is due to expire in December 2022.
However, there have been some recent developments. The first was a 15 September meeting between WADA and a delegation from the Russian Ministry of Sport to discuss RUSADA’s reinstatement. Photos (see right) indicate that Bukhanov was not at that meeting.
WADA has confirmed that no RUSADA representative attended the meeting. In attendance were:
• Frédéric Donzé, Chief Operating Offier, WADA;
• Witold Bańka, President, WADA;
• Olivier Niggli, Director General, WADA;
• René Bouchard, Advisor, Government Relations, WADA;
• Oleg Matytsin (Олег Матыцин), Russia’s Minister of Sport;
• Sergey Shilov (Сергей Шилов), Assistant to Russia’s Minister of Sport;
• Alexey Gorbunov (Алексей Горбунов): Head of Department, International Relations, Education and Science, Russian Ministry of Sport;
• Kirill Kozhenikov (Кирилл Кожевников): Deputy Head of the Department, International Relations, education and Science, Russian Ministry of Sport.
Less than a month after that meeting, there was a major reshuffle of RUSADA’s Supervisory Board. On 6 October, the Russian Bar Association (Ассоциации юристов России) announced that three new members had been appointed to the Supervisory Board:
• Evgeny Achkasov (Евгений Ачкасов), Head of the Department of Sports Medicine & Medical Rehabilitation at Moscow State Medical University;
• Alexander Yakushev (Александр Якушев), former ice hockey Player and former national team Coach;
• Evgeny Rashchevsky (Евгений Ращевский), Partner and Co-Head of International Arbitration & Litigation Practice, Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners.
• Anatoly Kucherena (Анато́лий Кучере́на), Lawyer and Chairman of the Public Council of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs;
• Sergey Ryazansky (Серге́й Рязанский), Cosmonaut. Russian State media reported that Ryazansky was originally appointed at WADA’s suggestion.
Vitaly Vinogradov (Виталий Виноградов) has since left the Supervisory Board, reports AllSportInfo, without stating a reason for his departure. Vinogradov is a businessman, a member of the Lenfilm Studio Board of Directors, and Lecturer at the Business School at the Russian State University for the Humanities (РГГУ).
Many Russian State organisations have Public Councils, which purportedly contain independent people and act as advisory bodies. However, the fact that Yakushev’s Wikipedia page lists him as a member of the Public Council of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR, or Sledcom) is sure to raise eyebrows.
The relevant page on the SKR’s internet site no longer lists the composition of the its Public Council, however an archived page from 2017 shows that SKR previously published the composition of its Public Council. Yakushev features in a 2012 document listing the composition of the SKR’s Public Council (see right).
It was the SKR/Sledcom that in 2016 charged Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov (Григорий Родченков), former Director of the Moscow Laboratory, with being at the centre of an illegal trade in performance enhancing substances. Nearly six years later, its criminal case against Dr. Rodchenkov has yet to be concluded.
This brings us back to Bukhanov, who stuck his head above the parapet for a second time. He told AllSportInfo that the updated RUSADA Supervisory Board is not in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code due to its lack of independence.
Natalia Sokolova (Наталья Соколова), Head of the Department of International Law at Moscow State Law University, has assumed the position of Chair of RUSADA’s Supervisory Board. She told AllSportInfo that WADA is aware of what is happening, and that a “legal assessment” of Bukhanov is being carried out. In a statement, WADA told InsideTheGames that it is ‘concerned’ about the situation.
One could be forgiven for feeling a certain sense of Déjà vu. In December 2019, Ganus warned WADA about the RUSADA Supervisory Board’s lack of independence from the Russian State. This was after he had no input into a Decision it took to appeal WADA’s sanction for manipulation of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory. Eight months later, he was dismissed.
One of WADA’s requirements for the reinstatement of RUSADA, upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), pertained to its independence. ‘WADA must remain satisfied throughout the four year period during which the consequences are in place, that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with any aspect of its anti-doping activities’, it reads.
This requirement was one of the reasons that the ROC & RPC were removed as RUSADA’s Founders in December 2020. Another was because Ganus alleged they had asked for athletes to be given five minutes notice about doping tests, at a 29 April 2019 meeting. As previously mentioned, Ganus was removed not long after making that August 2020 revelation.
However, there are questions about whether the appointed replacement bodies are any more independent. The Russian Bar Association was created in 2005 by three people: former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin (Сергей Степашин); former Deputy Secretary of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and Drafter of the Russian Constitution Oleg Kutafin (Оле́г Кута́фин); and Veniamin Yakovlev (Вениамин Яковлев), advisor to President Vladimir Putin (Владимира Путина).
Its ‘co-member’, as such bodies are now listed on the RUSADA site, is the private International Health Protection Centre (Международный центр охраны здоровья). The Moscow Clinic lists the ROC and RPC as two of its major partners.
Of course, WADA needs to speak to Russian State officials about any involvement in RUSADA in order to ascertain RUSDA’s compliance with its requirement for independence. However to host such a meeting in Istanbul, where WADA’s Executive Committee meeting took place, appears an odd choice.
The Sports Integrity Initiative asked WADA if it invited the Ministry of Sport to Istanbul; and why RUSADA was not at the same meeting. We didn’t receive a reply.
WADA’s statement mentions that the 15 September meeting was designed to discuss whether ‘RUSADA’s independence operational independence is fully respected by the Russian authorities’. Another topic discussed at the meeting was the appointment of a new Director General to replace Bukhanov. On the day it was taking place, Bukhanov was in Ozersk (Озёрск) in the Chelyabinsk Oblast (Челя́бинская о́бласть), signing an agreement with a hockey club for veterans of Russian special forces.
Why wasn’t Bukhanov in Istanbul? One can’t imagine Ganus missing such an important event.
“The need for RUSADA to retain its independence is critical”, stresses WADA President Witold Bańka in the statement. “There must be no attempt by the Russian state or sporting authorities to interfere with any of its operations. Associated with that, the appointment of RUSADA’s next Director General must follow a rigorous process to ensure the right person is hired for this important position, and that they are able to function independently in the role.”
Reading between the lines, it would appear that both WADA and the Russian Ministry of Sport recognise that Bukhanov is not in control of RUSADA. That’s why WADA was discussing the process to replace Bukhanov with a Ministry of Sport delegation and not RUSADA.
On the face of it, this does appear to be a contradiction in terms. WADA wants RUSADA to be independent from State authorities, but can only hold meaningful discussions about RUSADA’s leadership with State authorities.
WADA’s requirement that RUSADA should be operationally independent from both Russian State and sporting bodies is a can of worms. The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code features a strengthened Article 20.5 (see right), which clarifies that all national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) must be independent from influence by the State or sport.
Most 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, the generally accepted model is that funding is provided to the NADO, which is allowed to get on with its job. RUSADA’s Regulations on the Supervisory Board suggest a far more intimate relationship:
• Article 2.2.4 outlines that the Supervisory Board approves RUSADA’s financial plan and holds the right to make amendments to it;
• Article 2.2.5 outlines that it approves the structure of RUSADA, its staffing and the renumeration of staff;
• Article 2.2.6 outlines that it approves Regulations on the appointment of RUSADA’s Director General;
• Article 2.2.12 outlines that it must approve any candidatures for Membership of RUSADA, as well as any candidacy for the role of Director General (it may also suggest candidates);
• Article 2.2.13 outlines that it may submit disagreement with decisions taken by RUSADA for consideration by RUSADA’s Members [i.e. the Russian Bar Association and the International Health Protection Centre];
• Article 2.2.27 specifies that the Supervisory Board must monitor the implementation of RUSADA’s strategic and annual plans, and Article 2.2.28 mandates control over RUSADA’s financial plans;
• Article 2.2.30 outlines that the Supervisory Board must approve any RUSADA transactions worth more than R20 million (€241,000).
UKAD’s Board has connections to sporting bodies1 and USADA’s Board arguably has connections to the US Olympic Committee. There were questions about a conflict of interest at UKAD, after Professor John Brewer was appointed to the UK Athletics Performance Oversight Committee (POC) in 2020.
However the Boards of UKAD and USADA are considered to play more of an advisory role, similar to the previously-mentioned Public Councils for Russian State bodies. As illustrated above, Supervisory Board members have a huge potential influence over RUSADA decisions.
It could be argued that RUSADA would benefit from implementing a Public Council with less influence, similar to the ones already in place at the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SKR. That this hasn’t been done speaks volumes.
There is nothing wrong with running a business making vestments for he Clergy. But it is odd that RUSADA’s Supervisory Board has rapidly promoted Bukhanov since he was appointed by Ganus, whom it alleges is a crook. Bukhanov’s rapid promotion appears even odder as he has no background in leadership.
The only logical conclusion is that RUSADA’s Supervisory Board promoted him as a convenient and compliant placeholder, ready to take the fall when necessary. As mentioned, his recent comments suggest that this is already happening. The Supervisory Board has said that his suitability for the role is being assessed.
Is a replacement being lined up? So far, only Bukhanov has been mentioned in connection with the role of Director General. At present, it appears that an independent RUSADA remains an elusive enigma.
1. UKAD’s current Board contains Dr. Claire-Marie Roberts, who works for the UK Premier League; and Mark Foster, the Chief Commercial Officer at the Rugby Football League (RFL).↩
* After this article was written, Mikhail Bukhanov contacted The Sports Integrity Initiative. You can read Part Two of this article, which contains his response to some of these issues, by clicking here.
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