Thursday 19 April 2018

'A mind-blowing level of corruption' - Russia will know today of they are to be kicked out of Olympics

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Ben Bloom

Russia will discover today whether they will be banned from competing in all sports at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics after the World Anti-Doping Agency called for the entire country to be kicked out of the Games following the exposure of a government-led doping programme affecting the "vast majority" of sports.

In the programme, which ran from 2011 to 2015, hundreds of positive tests were covered up on the orders of government officials, with Russian secret service (FSB) officials helping to sabotage the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics by swapping dirty drugs samples for clean ones.

A Wada-commissioned report released yesterday said the Russian Ministry of Sport "directed, controlled and oversaw" the regime, with almost every Olympic sport implicated, from athletics and football, to curling and table tennis.

Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, described the findings as a "shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games" and said his organisation would "not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available" at a meeting today.

Wada urged Olympic and Paralympic organisers to consider a blanket ban on Russian athletes in time for Rio.

A Wada statement said: "Given that the Russian Ministry of Sport orchestrated systematic cheating of Russian athletes to subvert the doping-control process; and that the evidence shows such subversion in 30 sports, the presumption of innocence of athletes in all Russian sports is seriously called into question."

Read more: Anti-doping agency calls for Russia to miss Rio Games

Russia president Vladimir Putin said officials named as directly responsible in the doping scheme would be suspended, but he believed the report was "political" and warned against banning his country from Rio.

"We are witnessing a dangerous relapse of politics' interference into sports," he said.

"Yes, formats of interference have changed but its essence is the same - to make sports an instrument of geopolitical pressure.

"The Olympic Movement, which is playing a colossal uniting role for humankind, may once again be driven to the brink of a split."

Yesterday's report painted a damning picture of Russian anti-doping practices over a period that included the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2015 World Swimming Championships in Kazan.

Described as the "Disappearing Positive Methodology", the process of covering up positive drug tests was also in place during the build-up to London 2012, with the report claiming that many Russians competed at those Olympics using illegal drugs after they were plied with steroids dissolved in whisky for men and vermouth for women.

The investigation focused on two main strands of doping manipulation in Russia at the Moscow and Sochi anti-doping laboratories - both of which were under the Ministry of Sport's control.

It revealed a system where every positive doping sample flagged up at the Moscow laboratory would be sent to the deputy sports minister, Yuri Nagornykh, to determine whether it should be hidden.

Nagornykh ruled on 577 samples during the four-year period, with more than 50 per cent covered up and marked as negative.

Realising the difficulty of continuing such a programme in the presence of international doping officials at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, a separate scheme was devised for use there.

Corroborating allegations made by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow laboratory, the report exposed a startling operation, in which dirty doping samples were replaced by clean ones.

In a "clandestine swapping process", bottles containing positive samples were passed out of the Sochi laboratory through a "mouse hole". FSB officials proceeded to swap dirty urine for clean.

Read more: WADA reveal evidence of 'state-directed, fail-safe' doping across Russian Olympic sport

Although Nagornykh was responsible for covering up the majority of tests, the report said it was "inconceivable" Vitaly Mutko, Russia's sports minister, was unaware of the extent of the scheme.

It also suggested that Mutko intervened to cover up positive tests provided by 11 Russian footballers and one Russian-based foreign footballer.

With Russia's track-and-field team already banned from Rio, lead investigator Richard McLaren said his report showed the problem was by no means limited to just one sport: "This is not just about track and field. It covers many sports."

Russia's actions drew condemnation from across the sporting world. Travis Tygart, the US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive, said: "The McLaren Report has concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government.

"Most importantly, our hearts go out to athletes from all over the world who were robbed of their Olympic dreams."

The British Olympic Association said the report "realises the worst fears of clean athletes everywhere", while UK Anti-Doping urged the sports community to "come together" and safeguard clean athletes.

A letter signed by 10 national anti-doping organisations - including those in the United States, Germany, Japan and Canada - is due to be sent to the IOC today requesting a complete ban on Russia at Rio.

Irish Independent

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