Friday 28 October 2016

Russia's place at Rio 2016 hangs in the balance after WADA doping revelations

Martyn Ziegler

Published 09/11/2015 | 19:37

Rio’s Olympic Stadium, pictured in November 1,000 days before the start of the Games
Rio’s Olympic Stadium, pictured in November 1,000 days before the start of the Games

Russia faces being banned from the Rio 2016 Olympics after an investigation revealed "state-sponsored" doping on a wide scale in one of sport's biggest ever scandals.

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An independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has revealed that 1,417 samples were deliberately destroyed on the orders of the director of Russia's drug-testing laboratory - who took cash to cover up positive tests - while there was intimidation of officials by undercover officers from the Russian secret service FSB.

The commission's chairman Richard Pound said Russia should be banned from next year's Olympics, and that London 2012 had been "sabotaged" by the presence of Russian athletes with suspicious doping profiles. Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko, also a FIFA executive committee member and head of the organising committee for the 2018 football World Cup, must have been aware of the level of cheating, which was a relic of old Cold War attitudes to drugs in sport, Pound told a news conference in Geneva.

Pound said: "For the 2016 Olympics our recommendation is that the Russian federation be suspended. One of our hopes is they will volunteer to take the remedial work - if they don't the outcome may be no Russian track and field athletes in Rio. I hope they recognise it is time to change."

His report said the Moscow drug-testing laboratory's "impartiality, judgment and integrity were compromised by the surveillance of the FSB within the laboratory during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games", and the laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov held weekly discussions with the Russian secret service.

"The IC concludes that there was direct intimidation and interference by the Russian state with the Moscow laboratory operations."

He added: "It is perhaps an inherited attitude from the old Cold War days in the 1960s, 70s and 80s."

Pound said Russian coaches were "out of control" and the report calls for lifetime bans for five Russian coaches and five middle distance runners including Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova, who won gold and bronze respectively in the 800m at the London 2012 Olympics.

In relation to Mutko, who denied any wrongdoing when he met investigators, Pound stated: "It was impossible for him not to be aware of it. And if he's aware of it, he's complicit in it."

The commission also made clear that other countries and other sports may have similar problems. Pound named Kenya as one, stating: "Kenya has a real problem and have been very slow to acknowledge it."

The report blames the "widespread inaction" of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) plus the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) and the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) for allowing drug cheats to compete.

"The IC (independent commission) has noted a cumulative lapse of action from the IAAF, ARAF and RUSADA in conjunction with pursuing suspicious profiles," the report stated.

"As a result of this widespread inaction, the Olympic Games in London were, in a sense, sabotaged by the admission of athletes who should have not been competing, and could have been prevented from competing, were it not for the collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy adopted by the IAAF, ARAF and RUSADA."

IAAF president Lord Coe said he will seek urgent approval from the governing body's members to consider sanctions against the Russian federation, which could include suspension. He has given the Russian federation until the end of the week to come up with answers.

He called the report "alarming" and said: "I have urged the council to start the process of considering sanctions against (the Russian federation)."

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The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), whose investigation brought about the downfall of cyclist Lance Armstrong over a similarly systematic approach to cheating, was fiercely critical of Russia.

"USADA applauds the work of the WADA independent commission in exposing a Russian effort to take over sport through unlawful means," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in a statement.

"The evidence released today demonstrates a shocking level of corruption, and sends a clear message to Russia that they will not be allowed to cheat the world's athletes and escape justice behind a wall of deception and lies."

Mutko threatened to withdraw all funding from anti-doping in Russia and said the country was being persecuted.

He told the Interfax news agency: "Whatever we do, everything is bad. If we have to close this whole system, we would be happy to close it. That would mean no funding for any Russian anti-doping agency or laboratory."

The acting head of the Russian federation ARAF said it was not for WADA to call for suspensions.

Vadim Zelechenok told the R-Sport TV station: "Any suspension should be discussed at the meeting of the IAAF in November. It should be proven that any violations were the fault of the federation and not individual sports people. We should be given a chance to clear our names."

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