Doping in Russia
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Doping in Russian sports has a systemic nature. Russia has 49 Olympic medals stripped for doping violations – the most of any country, four times the number of the runner-up, and more than a third of the global total. From 2011 to 2015, more than a thousand Russian competitors in various sports, including summer, winter, and Paralympic sports, benefited from a cover-up.
Media attention began growing in December 2014 when German broadcaster ARD reported on state-sponsored doping in Russia, comparing it to doping in East Germany. In November 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published a report and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended Russia indefinitely from world track and field events. The United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency later assisted WADA with testing in Russia. In June 2016, they reported that they were unable to fully carry out their work and noted intimidation by armed Federal Security Service (FSB) agents. After a Russian former lab director made allegations about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, WADA commissioned an independent investigation led by Richard McLaren. McLaren's investigation found corroborating evidence, concluding in a report published in July 2016 that the Ministry of Sport and the FSB had operated a "state-directed failsafe system" using a "disappearing positive [test] methodology" (DPM) from "at least late 2011 to August 2015".
In response to these findings, WADA announced that RUSADA should be regarded as non-compliant with respect to the World Anti-Doping Code and recommended that Russia be banned from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Commission (IOC) rejected the recommendation, stating that the IOC and each sport's international federation would make decisions on each athlete's individual basis. One day prior to the opening ceremony, 278 athletes were cleared to compete under the Russian flag, while 111 were removed because of doping. In contrast, the entire Kuwaiti team was banned from competing under their own flag (for a non-doping related matter).
Unlike the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee voted unanimously to ban the entire Russian team from the 2016 Summer Paralympics and suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee, having found evidence that the DPM was also in operation at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
In November 2017, the IOC disciplinary commission wrote that "the sample-swapping scheme was one of the worst ever blows against the integrity and reputation of the Olympic Games." On 5 December 2017, the IOC voted to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics and to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee. Russian athletes may be allowed to participate under the Olympic flag if cleared by a panel led by Valerie Fourneyron, which will feature representatives from the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the Doping Free Sport Unit of the Global Association of International Sports Federations.
- 1 Background: Soviet era
- 2 Doping issues from 2001 to 2009
- 3 Allegations of state-sponsored doping and 2014 ARD documentary
- 4 Aftermath
- 5 International competitions
- 6 Media coverage
- 7 Reactions
- 8 Statistics
- 9 Hashtag controversy
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Background: Soviet era
According to British journalist Andrew Jennings, a KGB colonel stated that the agency's officers had posed as anti-doping authorities from the International Olympic Committee to undermine doping tests and that Soviet athletes were "rescued with [these] tremendous efforts". On the topic of the 1980 Summer Olympics, a 1989 Australian study said "There is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner, who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might as well have been called the Chemists' Games."
Documents obtained in 2016 revealed the Soviet Union's plans for a statewide doping system in track and field in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Dated prior to the country's decision to boycott the Games, the document detailed the existing steroids operations of the program, along with suggestions for further enhancements. The communication, directed to the Soviet Union's head of track and field, was prepared by Dr. Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture. Portugalov was also one of the main figures involved in the implementation of the Russian doping program prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Doping issues from 2001 to 2009
Multiple Russian biathletes were involved in doping offences in run-up to the 2010 Olympics. The president of the International Biathlon Union, Anders Besseberg, said, "We are facing systematic doping on a large scale in one of the strongest teams of the world."
Reviewing 7289 blood samples from 2737 athletes from 2001 to 2009, a report found that the number of suspicious samples from "Country A" notably exceeded other countries. One of the authors said that Country A was Russia.
In October 2009, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss wrote to Valentin Balakhnichev that blood samples from Russian athletes "recorded some of the highest values ever seen since the IAAF started testing" and that tests from the 2009 World Championships "strongly suggest a systematic abuse of blood doping or EPO-related products."
Allegations of state-sponsored doping and 2014 ARD documentary
In 2010, an employee at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA, Vitaly Stepanov, began sending information to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleging that RUSADA was enabling systemic doping in athletics. He said that he sent 200 emails and 50 letters over three years. In December 2012, Darya Pishchalnikova sent an email to WADA containing details on an alleged state-run doping program in Russia. According to The New York Times, the email reached three top WADA officials but the agency decided not to open an inquiry and instead sent her email to Russian sports officials. On April, 2013 she was banned by the Russian Athletics Federation for ten years, and her results from May 2012 were annulled, meaning she was set on track to lose her Olympic medal. Her ban by the Russian Athletics Federation was likely in retaliation. British journalist Nick Harris said that he contacted the International Olympic Committee with allegations about Grigory Rodchenkov's laboratory in Moscow in early July 2013.
According to Stepanov, "Even at WADA there were people who didn't want this story out" but he said that a person at the organisation connected him with the German broadcaster ARD. WADA's chief investigator Jack Robertson believed that the organisation was reluctant to take action and that media attention was necessary, so he obtained David Howman's permission to contact a journalist. The journalist, Hajo Seppelt, had previously reported on doping in East Germany and other countries. In December 2014, ARD aired Seppelt's documentary – Geheimsache Doping: Wie Russland seine Sieger macht (The Doping Secret: How Russia Creates its Champions). The documentary alleged Russian state involvement in systematic doping, which it described as "East German-style". In the documentary, Stepanov and his wife, Yuliya Stepanova (née Rusanova), alleged that Russian athletics officials supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete's earnings and falsified tests together with doping control officers. It included conversations secretly recorded by Stepanova, e.g. Mariya Savinova saying that contacts at a Moscow drug-testing laboratory had covered up her doping. Russian long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova allegedly paid 450,000 euros to cover up her positive doping result. According to the allegations, Dr. Sergei Portugalov, who is also accused of organising state-sponsored doping going back to the early 1980s in the Soviet Union, was involved in the Russian system.
In January 2015, then-ARAF President Valentin Balakhnichev resigned as treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
In response to the ARD documentary, WADA commissioned an investigation headed by former anti-doping agency President Dick Pound, the report of which was published on 9 November 2015. The 335-page document, described as "damning" by The Guardian, reported widespread doping and large-scale cover-ups by the Russian authorities. It stated that the Federal Security Service (FSB) had regularly visited and questioned laboratory staff and instructed some of them not to cooperate with the WADA investigation.:196–197 Two staff members said that they suspected that the offices and telephones were bugged.:196–197 The report recommended that ARAF be declared non-compliant with respect to the World Anti-Doping Code and that the International Olympic Committee not accept any 2016 Summer Olympics entries from ARAF until compliance was reached.
A day later, WADA suspended the Moscow Anti-doping Center, prohibiting the laboratory "from carrying out any WADA-related anti-doping activities including all analyses of urine and blood samples." On 13 November, the IAAF council voted 22–1 in favour of prohibiting Russia from world track and field events with immediate effect. Under other penalties against the ARAF, Russia has been also prohibited from hosting the 2016 World Race Walking Team Championships (Cheboksary) and 2016 World Junior Championships (Kazan), and ARAF must entrust doping cases to Court of Arbitration for Sport. ARAF accepted the indefinite IAAF suspension and did not request a hearing. ARAF's efforts towards regaining full IAAF membership will be monitored by a five-person IAAF team. On 18 November 2015 WADA suspended RUSADA, meaning that Russia does not have a functioning NADO for any sport.
In November 2015, France began a criminal investigation into former IAAF president Lamine Diack, alleging that in 2011 he accepted a 1 million euro bribe from the All-Russia Athletic Federation to cover up positive doping results of at least six Russian athletes.
January to May 2016
In January 2016, the IAAF gave lifetime bans to the former head of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, and a top Russian coach, Aleksey Melnikov.
Two former directors of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinyev and Nikita Kamaev, mysteriously died in February 2016. The Sunday Times reported that Kamaev had approached the newspaper shortly before his death planning to publish a book on "the true story of sport pharmacology and doping in Russia since 1987". Grigory Rodchenkov, a lab director described by WADA as "the heart of Russian doping", was fired by Russian authorities and fled in fear of his safety to the United States, where he shared information with the help of filmmaker Bryan Fogel, which was documented in the film Icarus.
In March 2016, ARD broadcast the documentary "Russia's Red Herrings", alleging that athletes were alerted about testing plans and offered banned substances by individuals at RUSADA and ARAF. According to a May 2016 report in The New York Times, the director of a prominent laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, said that doping experts collaborated with Russia's intelligence service on a state-sponsored doping programme in which urine samples were switched through a hole in the laboratory's wall. He said that at least fifteen medalists at the 2014 Winter Olympics were involved. On 19 May, WADA appointed Richard McLaren to lead an investigation into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
An ARD documentary in June 2016 implicated Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko in covering up doping by a football player at FK Krasnodar. In the same month, IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies was provisionally suspended over allegations that he took money to delay naming Russian athletes. According to the BBC, emails from July 2013 showed that Davies had discussed how to delay or soften an announcement on Russians who had tested positive.
In June 2016, WADA released a report stating that the work of its Doping Control Officers (DCO) had been limited by a "significant amount of unavailable athlete reports and missed tests", insufficient or incorrect athlete location information, and little information about the location or date of competitions. Some athletes named military cities requiring special permission to enter as their location and some national championships, including Olympic qualifiers, were held in cities with restricted access due to civil conflicts, preventing testing of the competitors. WADA also reported intimidation of DCOs by armed Federal Security Service (FSB) agents; "significant delays" before being allowed to enter venues; consistent monitoring by security staff; delays in receiving athlete lists; and opening of sample packages by Russian customs. 90% of Russian athletes did not respond or "emphatically" refused when WADA requested to interview them as part of its investigation. Director general David Howman stated, "It was the very right time for those who considered themselves clean [to approach WADA]. They had nine months, plenty of time, and none came forward."
On 17 June, the IAAF Council held an extraordinary meeting "principally to give the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) a further opportunity to satisfy the Reinstatement Conditions for IAAF Membership." A task force chaired by Rune Andersen recommended against reinstating Russia after reporting that criteria had not been met and that there were "detailed allegations, which are already partly substantiated, that the Russian authorities, far from supporting the anti-doping effort, have in fact orchestrated systematic doping and the covering up of adverse analytical findings." The IAAF voted unanimously to uphold its ban.
A week later, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) decided to give a one-year ban to Russia, along with two other countries; on 3 August 2016 the IOC ratified the decision, and Russia's weightlifting team missed the 2016 Summer Olympics.
On 18 July 2016, Richard McLaren, a Canadian attorney retained by WADA to investigate Rodchenkov's allegations, published a 97-page report covering significant state-sponsored doping in Russia. Although limited by a 57-day time frame, the investigation found corroborating evidence after conducting witness interviews, reviewing thousands of documents, analysis of hard drives, forensic analysis of urine sample collection bottles, and laboratory analysis of individual athlete samples, with "more evidence becoming available by the day.":5 The report concluded that it was shown "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Russia's Ministry of Sport, the Centre of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow had "operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes" within a "state-directed failsafe system" using "the disappearing positive [test] methodology" after the country's poor medal count during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. McLaren stated that urine samples were opened in Sochi in order to swap them "without any evidence to the untrained eye". The official producer of BEREG-KIT security bottles used for anti-doping tests, Berlinger Group, stated, "We have no knowledge of the specifications, the methods or the procedures involved in the tests and experiments conducted by the McLaren Commission."
According to the McLaren report, the Disappearing Positive Methodology operated from "at least late 2011 to August 2015.":35 It was used on 643 positive samples, a number that the authors consider "only a minimum" due to limited access to Russian records.:39 The system covered up positive results in a wide range of sports::41
- Athletics (139)
- Weightlifting (117)
- Non-Olympic sports (37)
- Paralympic sport (35)
- Wrestling (28)
- Canoe (27)
- Cycling (26)
- Skating (24)
- Swimming (18)
- Ice hockey (14)
- Skiing (13)
- Football (11)
- Rowing (11)
- Biathlon (10)
- Bobsleigh (8)
- Judo (8)
- Volleyball (8)
- Boxing (7)
- Handball (7)
- Taekwondo (6)
- Fencing (4)
- Triathlon (4)
- Modern pentathlon (3)
- Shooting (3)
- Beach volleyball (2)
- Curling (2)
- Basketball (1)
- Sailing (1)
- Snowboard (1)
- Table tennis (1)
- Water polo (1)
In response to these findings, WADA announced that RUSADA should be regarded as non-compliant with respect to the World Anti-Doping Code and recommended that Russian athletes be banned from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to decline 2016 Summer Olympics accreditation requests by Russian sports ministry officials and any individuals implicated in the report, to begin re-analysis and a full inquiry into Russian competitors at the Sochi Olympics, and to ask sports federations to seek alternative hosts for major events that had been assigned to Russia.
On July 21, 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned down an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes. The following day, the International Paralympic Committee began suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia. On 24 July, the IOC rejected WADA's recommendation to ban Russia from the Summer Olympics and announced that a decision would be made by each sport federation. With each positive decision having to be approved by a CAS arbitrator. WADA's president Craig Reedie said, "WADA is disappointed that the IOC did not heed WADA's Executive Committee recommendations that were based on the outcomes of the McLaren Investigation and would have ensured a straight-forward, strong and harmonized approach." On the IOC's decision to exclude Stepanova, WADA director general Olivier Niggli stated that his agency was "very concerned by the message that this sends whistleblowers for the future."
August to September 2016
Originally Russia submitted a list of 389 athletes for the Rio Olympics competition. On 7 August 2016, the IOC cleared 278 athletes, while 111 were removed because of the scandal (including 67 athletes removed by IAAF before the IOC's decision).
Critics noted that Kuwaitis were banned from competing under their own flag (for a non-doping related matter) while Russians were permitted to do so. Due to governmental interference, Kuwaiti competitors were permitted to enter only as independent athletes. Dick Pound stated, "It is not a consistent standard which is being applied now. Not all Kuwait athletes banned from competing in Rio under their own flag were supporters of the regime, and not all South African athletes were supporters of apartheid, but the greater good called for South Africa to be expelled." Germany's Deutsche Welle wrote of "troublesome questions, like why Kuwait's Olympic federation faced a ban from Rio, while Russia's did not. Kuwait's tiny team [...] was suspended because of improper political conduct by the government; Russia's was not, after systematically organizing a doping program for many of its competitors."
Having sent samples for forensic analysis, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) found evidence that the Disappearing Positive Methodology was in operation at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi. On 7 August 2016, the IPC's Governing Board voted unanimously to ban the entire Russian team from the 2016 Summer Paralympics, citing the Russian Paralympic Committee's (RPC) inability to enforce the IPC's Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code, which is "a fundamental constitutional requirement". IPC President Sir Philip Craven described the Russian anti-doping system as "entirely compromised" and 18 July 2016 as "one of the darkest days in the history of all sport", and stated that the Russian government had "catastrophically failed its Para athletes". IPC Athletes' Council Chairperson Todd Nicholson said that Russia had used athletes as "pawns" in order to "show global prowess". On 23 August 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Russia's appeal, stating that the IPC's decision was "made in accordance with the IPC Rules and was proportionate in the circumstances" and that Russia "did not file any evidence contradicting the facts on which the IPC decision was based." The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland rejected another appeal by Russia, saying that the RPC "needed to demonstrate it had fulfilled its obligations in upholding... anti-doping protocols, and that its interests in an immediate lifting of its suspension outweigh the International Paralympics Committee's interests in fighting doping and in the integrity of athletics. It did not succeed in this in any way." Rejecting an appeal by ten athletes, a German court stated that the IPC had no obligation to allow them to compete and that the committee had "comprehensibly justified" its decision.
In an interview with NRK, WADA's director general Olivier Niggli said that "Russia is threatening us and our informers", mentioning daily hacking attempts and bugging of houses. He said that the agency had "a pretty good suspicion" that the hackers were Russian and that Western governments were already familiar with them. He stated, "I think this will cease if they stop looking at us as an enemy, and instead accept that there is a problem that we must work together to solve. But for the moment they are sending out completely the wrong signals."
October to December 2016
On 3 November 2016, Russia approves anti-doping law targeting coaches.
On 15 November 2016, Berlinger introduced a new design for doping sample bottles. A spokesman later said, "We work with forensic specialists from different nations. We want to always stay a little bit ahead of those cheating but you cannot avoid a system like the Russians built up."
On 9 December 2016, McLaren published the second part of his report. From 2011 to 2015, more than 1,000 Russian competitors in various sports (including summer, winter, and Paralympic sports) benefited from the cover-up. Emails indicate that they included five blind powerlifters, who may have been given drugs without their knowledge, and a fifteen-year-old. An IAAF taskforce announced that Russia could not be reinstated because the country still had no functional drug-testing agency and had not accepted the findings of investigations.
January to October 2017
In February 2017, All-Russia Athletic Federation vice-president Andrey Silnov held a press conference in Moscow alongside a former Soviet athlete who said that East German successes due to state-sponsored doping are legitimate results of "good pharmacology" and should not be condemned. Later that month, WADA stated that evidence against many individuals named in the McLaren report might be insufficient because the Moscow laboratory had disposed of doping samples and Russian authorities were not answering requests for additional evidence.
An IAAF taskforce chaired by Rune Andersen published an interim report in April 2017. President Sebastian Coe stated, "There is testing but it is still far too limited. The Russian investigative committee is still refusing to hand over athlete biological passport samples for independent testing from labs, we still have got athletes in closed cities that are difficult or impossible to get to, the ongoing employment of coaches from a tainted system, and we have got the head coach of RUSAF effectively refusing to sign their own pledge to clean athletics." The report also noted the case of whistleblower Andrei Dmitriev, who had fled Russia after being threatened with imprisonment. Coe said, "Anyone with information about a system which has failed to protect the goals and aspirations of clean athletes must feel it is safe to speak out." Andersen questioned the selection of Yelena Isinbayeva, who had called for whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova to be "banned for life", as the chair of RUSADA's supervisory board. Andersen stated, "It is difficult to see how this helps to achieve the desired change in culture in track and field, or how it helps to promote an open environment for Russian whistleblowers", noting that Isinbayeva had called a WADA report "groundless" without reading it, publicly criticised whistleblowers (Dmitriev and the Stepanovs), and had not signed a pledge for clean sport or endorsed a Russian anti-doping group.
In September 2017, WADA rejected Russia's claims that WADA should be held responsible for Rodchenkov, noting that Russia had chosen to appoint him as head of the Moscow laboratory. The organisation also stated, "WADA would expect the Russian authorities to take responsibility for this deliberate system of cheating that was uncovered by the McLaren Investigation – as is stipulated within RUSADA's Roadmap to Compliance – rather than continually shifting the blame onto others." Seventeen national anti-doping organisations criticised the IOC for a "continuing refusal to hold Russia accountable for one of the biggest doping scandals in sports history" and "dereliction of duty [sending] a cynical message that those of favored, insider nations within the Olympic Movement will never be punished or held accountable". They stated that cases had been "shut prematurely before the IOC or IFs have obtained complete evidence from the Moscow laboratory or interviewed the relevant witnesses." An additional 20 NADOs have signed on.
November to December 2017
In November 2017 IOC disciplinary commission headed by Denis Oswald imposed first sanctions after its yearlong Sochi investigations. As of December 2, 2017, 25 Russian athletes have been sanctioned and 11 medals have been stripped.
On November 10, 2017, the day after Vladimir Putin had accused the U.S. of ginning up problems for Russian athletes, WADA said in a news release that it had obtained an electronic file that contains “all testing data” from January 2012 to August 2015 — thousands of drug screenings run on Russian athletes. The database, which the Russian authorities were unwilling to share with antidoping investigators, arrived through a whistleblower. Head of Russian Ski Association has told the press that "whistleblowers are traitors to their country" shortly thereafter. Russia's ski team coach went even further and accused Ilia Chernousov (a skier who won a bronze medal in 50 km event and might be upgraded to gold after disqualifications) of "leaking information" to WADA.
On November 11, 2017 it was revealed that Grigory Rodchenkov had provided new evidence of Russian state-sponsored doping to the IOC, noting that he will consider to go public if the Schmid Commission does not give due weight to his evidence in any public findings.
On November 16, 2017 WADA announced that Russia remained non-compliant with its Code. On November 26, 2017 IAAF decided to maintain Russia's ban from international track and field competitions, saying the country had not done enough to tackle doping.
In an interview with the New York Times Rodchenkov has told that Yuri Nagornykh, the deputy minister of sport, had asked him to incriminate a Ukrainian athlete, Vita Semerenko, during a competition in Moscow leading up to the Olympics. Rodchenkov did not comply, convincing the minister that a retest of the drug sample would show the drugs had been spiked into the sample rather than passed through a human body. “I could not have done this to an innocent athlete,” he said. “During my career, I reported many Dirty Samples as clean, but never the other way around.”.
2018 Winter Olympics ban
In the past, Vladimir Putin and other officials have said it would be a humiliation for Russia if its athletes are not allowed to compete under the Russian flag. However, his spokesman later said no boycott has been discussed. After the IOC decision was announced, the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov announced that no Chechen athletes will participate under a neutral flag. On 6 December, Putin stated that the Russian government will not "prevent" any athletes from participating at the Games as "individuals," but there were calls for boycott from other politicians. It is still unclear whether Russia will fund its athletes in the run-up to the Olympics.
Although the IOC stated in July 2016 that it would ask sports federations to seek alternative hosts, Russia has retained hosting rights for some major international sports events, including the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2018 FIFA World Cup, and 2019 Winter Universiade. In September 2016, Russia was awarded hosting rights for the 2021 World Biathlon Championships because the IOC's recommendation did not apply to events that had already been awarded or planned bids from the country.
Olympic medalists Steven Holcomb, Matt Antoine, Martins Dukurs, and Lizzy Yarnold questioned the decision to hold the FIBT World Championships 2017 in Sochi, with boycotts considered by Austria, Latvia, and South Korea. Latvia's skeleton team confirmed that it would boycott if Sochi remained the host, saying that the "Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014." On 13 December 2016, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation announced that it would relocate the event. Some athletes were concerned that they might unwittingly ingest a banned substance if the host tampered with food or drinks, while others "were worried about the evidence that Russian laboratories had been opening tamper-proof bottles. If they have opened these bottles to help their athletes, what is to stop them also opening them to tamper with samples from any athlete in the competition?"
Biathlon teams from the Czech Republic and Great Britain decided to boycott a 2016–17 Biathlon World Cup stage in Tyumen. On 22 December 2016, Russia announced it would not host the World Cup event or the 2017 Biathlon Junior World Championships in Ostrov. The same day, the International Skating Union decided to relocate a speed skating event, the 2016–17 ISU Speed Skating World Cup stage in Chelyabinsk, due to "a substantial amount of critical evidence and the uncertainty relating to the attendance of the athletes." Russia was later removed as host of the 2016–17 FIS Cross-Country World Cup final stage and