A new report reveals that Russia has been systematically concealing positive drug tests since 2011, confirming what The New York Times once called "one of the most elaborate – and successful – doping ploys in sports history."
Now, with less than three weeks until the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, officials must decide whether to let Russian athletes participate.
In a 97-page report, investigator Richard McLaren found that the country's state-directed cheating program resulted in at least 312 positive results being withheld by Moscow's anti-doping laboratory under the direction of Russia's deputy minister of sports. The withheld positives spanned 28 sports, including track and field, wrestling, swimming, snowboarding, and even table tennis.
The total number of positives withheld could be higher, Mr. McLaren said, but as the investigation was limited to 57 days, he was only able to examine a total of 577 positive sample screenings.
The "disappearing positive methodology," as McLaren calls it, is said to have begun in 2011, shortly after Russia's disappointing performance at the Vancouver Olympics. The plan was executed with the assistance of Russia's national security service, the FSB, the main successor agency to the Soviet KGB.
McLaren did not make any recommendations for the future of the Russian team at the upcoming Games, saying it was up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and others to "absorb and act upon" the content of the report.
In response, IOC President Thomas Bach said the committee would not hesitate to apply the toughest sanctions possible, calling the program a "shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games."
Prior to the report's release, several sports organizations, including the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), announced that they would call for a full ban of the Russian team if the report provided evidence of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy.
On Monday, USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart said in a statement that the report "concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government that goes right to the field of play."
No matter what decision is made by Olympic officials, at least one Russian will compete at Rio as an neutral athlete. As The Christian Science Monitor's Ben Rosen reported last week:
Long jumper Darya Klishina was approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Sunday to compete independent of Russia at international competitions that include the Olympics, subject to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepting its decision. The IAAF Doping Review Board found Ms. Klishina, who trains at a Florida sports academy, "meets the exceptional eligibility criteria" because she proved she was not involved in the scandal, and was subjected to drug tests outside of Russia.
If Klishina competes in the Olympics, she will likely become the first athlete whose country was banned from the competition because of a doping scandal to compete as a neutral athlete there.
The IOC executive board will meet Tuesday to begin discussing the future of the Russian team, the Associated Press reports.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.