By Mitch Phillips
LONDON More than 1,000 Russian competitors across more than 30 sports were involved in an institutional conspiracy to conceal positive doping tests as Moscow ‘hijacked international sport’, an independent WADA report said on Friday. The second and final part of the report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren provided exhaustive evidence of an elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme operated by Russia’s Sports Ministry.It included switching and changing samples by opening “tamper-proof” bottles – using a method devised by the Russian secret service – and numerous other methods to bypass and cover up drugs tests.”We are now able to confirm a cover-up that dates back until at least 2011 that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy,” McLaren told a news conference on Friday. “It was a cover-up of an unprecedented scale and this report shows the evidence that increases the number of athletes involved, as well as the scope of the conspiracy. “We have evidence revealing that more than 500 positive results were reported as negative, including well-known and elite-level athletes and medal winners, who had their positive results automatically falsified.”Over 1,000 athletes competing in Summer, Winter and Paralympic sport can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive tests.”WADA president Craig Reedie called the findings “alarming” and said the report would be of immediate value to sporting bodies responsible for punishing doping cases.But Russia showed no sign of accepting the report’s conclusions.The Sports Ministry said it would study the WADA report and cooperate fully with anti-doping bodies, but “denies that any government programmes exists to support doping in sport”.”UNFOUNDED ACCUSATIONS”
Athletics chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin declined to comment directly on the report because he said he had not seen it. He conceded that Russian athletics’ problems “did not start yesterday”, but said it had now fulfilled all the demands made of it.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday extended provisional sanctions against Russian sport over the scandal, and an international ban on its track and field athletes remains in force pending a reform of its anti-doping programme.Yelena Isinbayeva, double Olympic pole vault champion and newly-elected head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency supervisory board, said shortly before the report was released: “It is well known to us that many foreign athletes have a history of doping but compete at an international level with no problems.”If we want to clean up world sport, let’s start … we don’t need to concentrate on just one country.”Dmitry Svishchev, a member of parliament and president of Russia’s Curling Federation, said: “We haven’t heard anything new. Unfounded accusations against us all. If you are Russian, they accuse you of all sins.”McLaren accepted that there could be widespread doping elsewhere, though not on the same level as in Russia, the sole focus of his investigation.
McLaren pointed out that Russia had won 24 gold, 26 silver and 32 bronze medals at London 2012 and no Russian athlete had tested positive.”Yet the Russian team corrupted the London Games on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be fully established,” he said.”For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field.” Forensic investigations by his team detailed how a bank of clean urine samples was kept in a Moscow laboratory, where salt and coffee were added to try to fool officials testing “B samples” in supposedly tamper-proof bottles. DNA MISMATCHES
The report included evidence of DNA mismatches, where a tampered B sample did not match the DNA of previous specimens, and of samples that contained a mixture of male and female urine. It added that analysis of the samples from four Russians who won gold in Sochi had shown salt readings that were physiologically impossible, while there was evidence that the samples of 12 Russian Sochi medallists had been tampered with.More than 1,100 items of evidence contained in the report have now been made available to the public at the website here, including details and pictures of how microscopes were used to detect the tiny scratch marks made when opening the “tamper-proof” sample bottles.Friday’s report provided extensive evidence to support the original July report, which said Moscow had concealed hundreds of positive doping tests ahead of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.The IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on Russia competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, letting international sports federations decide which athletes should be allowed to compete. Only athletics and weightlifting banned the entire Russian teams.The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did ban Russia completely from its Rio games, however, and said on Friday the full findings of the report were “unprecedented and astonishing” and “strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport”.McLaren accepted that Russian authorities had taken many steps since his first report, removing several officials who had been involved in the cover-up, setting up a new anti-doping commission and proposing a “gold standard” doping control regime.However, when asked about the comments of Svishchev and Isinbayeva, he said: “The findings are not challengeable … my impression is that there is a certain embedded cultural aspect to what has been going on, so there probably does need to be cultural change.”That doesn’t mean change won’t occur, but it might take longer than a few months or a year.” (Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 21:05 IST
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