Accusations of performance enhancing drug use by Russian athletes could turn the country’s sports program upside-down and take athletes out of competition.
A new report accuses Russia of employing a state-sponsored performance enhancing drug program to produce winning track and field athletes. The report, published Monday, describes the government’s involvement in the program and the ensuing coverups by sports officials and athletes, including Olympic medalists.
These charges could mean Russian athletes will not be allowed to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
The program included secret police, disappearing samples, bribes, intimidation, and false identities, according to the report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The charges are extensive and the Russian government is denying the accusations.
"As long as there is no evidence, it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded," President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the Associated Press.
According to the WADA report, FSB intelligence agents visited the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory frequently, often posing as workers and possibly bugging the facility to keep tabs on them. The report says such surveillance threatened the integrity of the laboratory because employees were afraid of the authorities.
The report also alleges that 1,417 test samples were destroyed ahead of a WADA inspection. The lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, faces sharp scrutiny following this report. Charged with many of the issues identified in the report, WADA recommended in the report a lifetime ban for the lab director.
The athletes may have been quite complicit in the coverups, if Monday’s report is correct. Some athletes and their coaches paid off officers from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (known as RUSADA) when tested, WADA says. They also may have dodged surprise tests by training in other countries under false identities.
Not all RUSADA officers wanted to take part in the corruption, but it was difficult to avoid, according to the report.
CNN reports, “One officer recounts climbing out of a hotel window during the night to avoid the police officers who were waiting outside to escort the samples to the Moscow lab.” That official managed to smuggle the samples out of Russia to a Swiss lab where some tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. That officer’s actions meant threatening phone calls for a family member.
WADA has already revoked the Moscow lab’s accreditation. The samples will now be tested outside of Russia.
But the nation faces additional consequences, particularly if further investigation confirms the report.
Russian track-and-field athletes could be banned from the upcoming 2016 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee vowed to do “whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport,” in a statement.
Past Olympics results could be affected too. The WADA report says that the 2012 Olympics in London were, “in a sense, sabotaged by the admission of athletes who should have not been competing.”
The report recommended a lifetime ban for some athletes implicated in the scandal. Those include Mariya Savinova-Farnosova, who won the 800 meters event in the 2012 Olympics, and bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova. They could even be stripped of their medals.
Many athletic officials could also face similar consequences. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko is also a FIFA executive committee member and chairman of the Russia 2018 local organizing committee. Some have called for his resignation, as the report accuses Mutko of being involved, which would mean he would not plan the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Another official in the hot seat is Nikita Kamaev, executive director of the Russian anti-doping agency known as RUSADA. RUSADA could be suspended by WADA.
Kamaev and other Russian officials have condemned the report as a biased attack on Russia.
"Some of the issues have a particular acuteness and are, if you like, politicized," Kamaev told The Associated Press. He likened the accusations to scenarios in a spy movie, describing them as coming from an “inflamed imagination.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.