The global organization charged with keeping sports free of performance-enhancing drugs accused Russia of a vast, systematic and “state-sponsored” doping program. In a report released Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency called into question some results from the 2012 London Olympics and recommended that Russia’s track and field team be banned from next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games unless the country takes immediate action.
While some Russian athletes have long been suspected of doping, WADA’s report described tactics that evoked memories of the state-run East German doping program of the 1970s, with revelations of shadow laboratories, destroyed samples and surveillance of lab workers by Russian intelligence agents.
It “would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities,” read one section of the 323-page report by WADA’s independent commission. The London Olympics, the report added, were “sabotaged” by the presence of athletes “who should not have been competing.”
Monday’s report suggested that Russia’s doping program may be more widespread, too, saying, “There is no reason to believe that [track and field] is the only sport in Russia to have been affected.”
“It may be the residue of the old Soviet Union system,” Richard W. Pound, lead author of the report and former WADA president, said at a news conference in Geneva. The widespread corruption, Pound added, “was worse than we thought.”
Among the report’s findings:
●Grigory Rodchenko, the head of Moscow’s anti-doping lab, admitted he ordered the destruction of 1,417 test samples in order to thwart WADA’s investigation.
●Russian authorities operated a second, “shadow” laboratory on the outskirts of Moscow, with identical testing facilities as the WADA-sponsored one, in order to assist in “the cover-up of positive doping results.” According to the report, it is suspected that Russian athletes were pre-screened at the shadow lab to make sure they passed before the samples were sent on to the official one.
●While some athletes participated willingly in the doping, others who resisted “were informed they would not be considered as part of the federation’s national team for competition.” One Russian marathoner told WADA investigators she was forced to pay a percentage of her earnings to representatives of Russia’s track and field federation to help her avoid positive doping tests.
●The Russian testing lab used during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was infiltrated by agents of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, who posed as lab engineers and who “actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation” on the staff and “compromised” the lab’s integrity. It was part of a wider pattern of “direct intimidation and interference by the Russian state” in the anti-doping program. However, the report did not make conclusive statements regarding doping by Russian athletes in Sochi.
●The Russian sports ministry, led by sports minister Vitaly Mutko, directly instructed lab personnel to manipulate samples. In his news conference in Geneva, Pound said Mutko “knew what was going on.”
Mutko, in an interview aired on Russian television, denied wrongdoing and said the WADA commission’s report relies on “unverified sources, on unverified facts.” He added, “These are all conjectures.” Mutko also accused Pound of overstepping the commission’s authority by “evaluating the entire system of doping in Russia.”
“This was an absolutely politically motivated statement like anti-Russian sanctions,” Vladimir Uyba, the head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency, told the Interfax news agency. “It has no grounds whatsoever.”
Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, accused Russia of an “effort to take over sport through unlawful means.” Monday’s report, Tygart said in a statement, “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. If Russia has created an organized scheme of state-supported doping, then they have no business being allowed to compete on the world stage.”
Although the report stopped short of recommending an outright ban of Russia’s track and field team from the 2016 Rio Games — a threat Pound equated to a “nuclear weapon” — it called for an immediate suspension of the team, with the understanding the suspension could be lifted in time for the Olympics if Russia complied.
“For 2016, our recommendation is that the Russian federation be suspended,” Pound said in Geneva. “If they don’t [comply], then it has to play itself out. The outcome may be that there are no track and field athletes at Rio.”
Russia won a total of 81 medals at the London Games — third-most among all countries — including 18 in track and field. A year later, it led all nations with seven gold medals at the 2013 World Track and Field Championships — the same year in which WADA reported that Russian athletes accounted for 225 doping violations, the most in the world, including 42 violations in track and field.
The report recommended lifetime bans for five Russian coaches and five athletes — including Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova, the gold and bronze medalists from the women’s 800 meters at the London Games, respectively. The IAAF could strip the implicated Russian athletes of their medals in the coming months.
American Alysia Montaño, who finished fifth in the 800 meters at London — bumped off the medal stand by the two now-tainted Russians — said the prospect of receiving the bronze medal she was denied in London has left her with a mixture of relief, joy, frustration and sadness.
“It’s actually incredibly painful just to think about that moment, those moments lost,” Montaño said in a telephone interview. “I can’t get that back. Of course I want what’s mine. At the same time, it’s incredibly saddening.”
Russia is in the midst of a period of sustained visibility within international sports, having hosted the aforementioned 2013 World Track and Field championships in Moscow and 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, as well as the 2015 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Kazan.
In 2018, Russia will host the coveted FIFA World Cup, winning a closely watched bid process that has come under scrutiny in recent months amid a widespread corruption scandal within FIFA. Mutko, the Russian sports minister accused in Monday’s WADA report of ordering lab personnel to manipulate test samples, is also a member of FIFA’s executive committee and the head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee.
“The credibility of sport has taken some body blows over the last few months,” Pound said Monday. “The public view will move towards believing all sport is corrupt. If you can’t believe results, then there is a serious credibility problem. I hope all sports will look at their governance and their anti-doping systems, because their existence may be at risk.”
The IAAF itself was implicated in the report, along with the Russians, for what its authors called a “collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy” toward pursuing doping suspicions. The report’s findings have spurred at least two criminal inquiries. French authorities said they are investigating Lamine Diack, the Senagalese former head of the IAAF, track and field’s governing body, for allegedly accepting bribes that allowed tainted Russian athletes to compete, while Interpol said Monday that it had opened a global investigation into doping allegations in Russia and beyond.
Britain’s Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic gold medalist and now the president of the IAAF, said in a statement that he had “taken the urgent step of seeking approval from his fellow IAAF Council Members to consider sanctions against” the Russian federation. The IAAF, Coe told reporters, has given the Russian federation until the end of the week to respond to the allegations
Monday’s report credited German television station ARD with spurring the WADA investigation by airing a documentary, “Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes Its Winners,” in December 2014.
The WADA commission launched almost immediately, and according to its report Monday, so did Russia’s cover-up: The destruction of the 1,417 test samples, allegedly ordered by Rodchenko, the Russian anti-doping head, occurred in December, three days before WADA investigators were due to visit the lab
Andrew Roth in Moscow and Adam Kilgore in Washington contributed to this report.