Thursday 8 December 2016

Fresh doping accusations levelled at Russia... this time in swimming

Matt Slater

Published 17/06/2016 | 13:33

The Olympic flag flies next to the Russian flag
The Olympic flag flies next to the Russian flag

Whistleblowers have been urged to come forward to help the fight against doping after fresh allegations of Russian wrongdoing have surfaced, this time in swimming.

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According to reports in The Times and Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, two senior Russian anti-doping officials offered to stop testing Russian swimmers for money in the build-up to London 2012.

The former boss of Russia's anti-doping agency Nikita Kamaev and the director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov are alleged to have asked the national swimming federation for three million roubles (currently £32,200) a year to remove "two or three leading swimmers" from the testing group.

This offer, which the swimming federation declined, is reported to have been delivered over two meetings in autumn 2011.

A statement from swimming's world governing body FINA read: "These are very serious allegations and we urge anyone with relevant evidence to bring it forward to FINA so that we can share with all appropriate authorities and take immediate disciplinary action if required.

"FINA is monitoring all developments in the world's fight against cheating and doping in sport and is taking decisive action to protect the majority of our athletes who are clean."

These allegations come on the day international athletics bosses are meeting in Vienna to decide whether or not to lift the ban on Russia's athletics federation in time for the Rio Olympics, and they follow several previous claims of doping within Russian swimming.

Earlier this year, The Times reported that two positives for the blood-boosting drug EPO were simply ignored and there have also been claims in the swimming media of banned coaches working with Russian swimmers and the ready availability of doping products at training centres.

These claims cannot have come at a worse time for Russian sport as it is also under investigation for running a state-sponsored doping conspiracy at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Rodchenkov, who is in hiding in the United States, claims to be the mastermind behind that operation and he is currently co-operating with a World Anti-Doping Agency-funded investigation into what happened in Sochi. Kamaev died suddenly in February, aged 52.

But FINA itself has been under the microscope in recent years, with many anti-doping experts believing it was not looking hard enough for cheats within the sport and often behaved inconsistently when cheats were caught.

The Lausanne-based organisation, which also governs diving, open water swimming, synchronised swimming and water polo, is certainly more vocal about anti-doping this year, claiming to have spent £700,000 on no-notice, out-of-competition testing since January 1.

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