Russian lab shielded doping Russian athletes: WADA

Reuters, TORONTO

Tue, Jul 19, 2016 - Page 1

Widespread doping and manipulation of tests by Russian athletes and officials at the Sochi Winter Olympics, overseen by the Russian Ministry of Sport, was confirmed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) yesterday, further fueling calls for a complete ban on the nation at next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

WADA’s independent commission report, which was led by Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Richard McLaren and unveiled at a Toronto news conference, said a Moscow laboratory protected Russian athletes during last year’s Sochi Winter Games.

McLaren, who was a member of WADA’s independent commission which last year exposed widespread doping and corruption in Russian athletics, leading to the ban on Russian track and field athletes from Rio, said the Russian Ministry of Sport oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results and sample swapping.

The report addressed accusations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times that dozens of Russian athletes used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.

Rodchenkov claimed that up to 15 Russian medal winners at the Sochi Winter Games were part of a program in which tainted urine samples were switched for clean ones.

McLaren said Rodchenkov and all other witnesses interviewed were deemed credible and the personnel at the Moscow laboratory did not have a choice over whether to be involved in the state-directed system.

Many organizations, including the US Anti-Doping agency, have said that the Sochi revelations should lead to a blanket ban on Russia, but International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach indicated last week that he was reluctant to see athletes from one sport punished for the crimes of those, or officials, from another.

Russian President Vladimir Putin staked his reputation on the Sochi Games, which at about US$50 billion were the most expensive in Olympic history. Russia topped the medal table with 13 gold medals and 33 overall.

WADA appointed McLaren in May to lead the probe after some observers voiced concerns about a conflict of interest given that the allegations related to the Sochi Olympics and WADA is funded by the International Olympic Committee.