Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — The World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended Monday that Russia be totally barred from this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a damning new investigation by the body found the country directed a doping cover-up affecting virtually “all sports” in the country.
Russia’s track and field athletes are already banned from competing in Rio after a WADA investigation in November found a cover-up of systemic doping among them. The new WADA investigation found that doping affected almost every sport, not just track and field, and provided fresh evidence it was controlled directly by the Russian state.
The investigation was presented in Toronto Monday by the man who oversaw it, Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA to examine spectacular claims made in May to The New York Times of a cover up at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. McLaren’s report largely upheld the claims made to The New York Times by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, but also described in far greater detail how the system had been controlled directly by Russia’s ministry of sport and aided by its F.S.B. security service.
Speaking at a news conference, McLaren said Russia had created a “state-directed” system that “allowed cheating Russian athletes to compete while using performance enhancing drugs” and that this affected “all sports.”
Following the report’s release, WADA released a list of recommendations that included that the International Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee “decline entries, for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee.” The list also recommends Russian officials be barred from attending the Olympics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the WADA report Monday a “dangerous relapse into political interference in sport” that could lead to the splitting of the Olympic movement.
Coming just weeks before the Olympics, Russia now faces a whole-sale ban of its athletes from the summer games. Ahead of the report, 10 national anti-doping bodies, including those of the U.S., Germany and Japan, had called for Russia to be barred if the report was damning. WADA does not have the power to bar Russia, but international sports bodies are bound to take its recommendations into account.
In a statement immediately after the report’s release, the IOC said “the report shows a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” and that the IOC would “not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available” against those implicated in it. The IOC is due to convene a conference call on Tuesday, which is expected to discuss the issue.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it has a state doping program. But McLaren’s report, which he said was supported by forensic and documentary evidence, as well as testimonies, describes Russian state involvement in the cover-up in greater detail than WADA’s previous reports.
As described by Monday’s report, the system allegedly hinged on Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, where Rodchenkov had been director. According to McLaren, every positive sample was sent to Russia’s sports ministry for it to decide which samples should be covered up. An order would then be sent back down to the lab, ordering it to conceal certain results, which it would do by entering false information into the Russian and WADA’s own anti-doping database.
According to the report, the orders to cover up were particularly frequent around international competitions hosted by Russia and the Olympics, taking in all the major athletics events hosted by the country since 2011.
“The State implemented a simple failsafe strategy,” McLaren said in the report. “If all the operational precautions to promote and permit doping by Russian athletes proved to have been ineffective for whatever reason, the laboratory provided a failsafe mechanism. The State had the ability to transform a positive analytical result into a negative one.”
Those findings are particularly damaging to Russia’s hopes of going to the Olympics because the report says it demonstrates its anti-doping system was compromised for every sport.
“It affected athletes from all sport 36 disciplines whose urine samples were being analysed by the Moscow Laboratory,” the report reads, noting the swapping of samples was widespread from at least 2011 to 2015.
Russia has disputed that there was an actual system of doping and has never accepted WADA’s earlier findings, insisting doping was done only by individual athletes. Last month, Putin told an audience that “there could never be support for doping at the state level.”
But Monday’s report described the cover-up as “state directed and controlled,” overseen at the highest levels of Russia’s sports ministry and assisted extensively by Russia’s F.S.B. security service. It identifies Russia’s deputy sports minister, Yuri Nagornykh, as the man who chose which samples should be concealed. The report found that Nagornykh was tasked specifically with “a plan to protect dirty athletes” at the Sochi Olympics.
The report also detailed the F.S.B.’s involvement, finding that the service had three agents at the Moscow lab, including one working under the cover of a plumber.
It also confirmed some of the most extraordinary claims made by Rodchenkov, including one claim that the F.S.B. had succeeded in opening the supposedly tamper-proof urine sample bottles at the Sochi Olympics. McLaren’s team ran its own experiments, which demonstrated this was possible. Analysis also found tiny scratches and marks on the inside of bottles from some Russian athletes at Sochi, showing they had been opened.
Ahead of the report, WADA President Craig Reedie had said if the findings showed a cover-up across Russian sports, he might recommend no Russian athletes compete at Rio. McLaren did not make any recommendations about whether Russia should now be completely banned from the Rio Olympics, saying his job had been to “establish the facts.”
Widespread calls from other countries for Russia to be barred are expected. Over the weekend, a draft letter signed by 10 national anti-doping bodies, including the United States’, was leaked, and the letter calls for the IOC “to declare that no athlete can represent Russia at the Rio Olympic Games.”
Russian officials have repeatedly said a blanket ban would be unfair, and suggested the WADA investigations are part of a U.S.-led conspiracy. Russian state TV Monday was scheduled to screen a film attacking WADA’s motives for investigating.
However, McLaren said he was “supremely confident” in his report.
“We can demonstrate the existence of this system beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
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