More on Russian Doping

    McLaren Report     DEC. 9, 2016

A copy of Professor Richard McLaren’s report on Russian doping. CreditFacundo Arrizabalaga/European Pressphoto Agency

Highlights from the new report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency showing proof of Russia’s systematic doping, and implicating more than 1,000 athletes in at least 30 sports:

■ The Russian Ministry of Sport was involved in a conspiracy to manipulate the doping testing system and avoid positive results. The scheme became more elaborate and efficient over time, reaching its “apex” at the Sochi Winter Games.

■ The doping violations of athletes were ordered to “disappear” by the deputy sports minister over numerous years. The urine samples of athletes who were doping were swapped out for clean samples. This practice, previously reported to have taken place at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, began a year before those Games and continued afterward. The swapping in Sochi allowed athletes to dope throughout the Games without worrying about testing positive.

■ Athletes who benefited from the manipulation of doping results included Summer and Winter Olympians, and Paralympians — more than 1,000 in total.

■ So far, the names of more than 500 athletes on whom firm evidence of doping exists have been turned over to their relevant sports organizations.

■ Drug testing samples supposedly from two female ice hockey players showed male DNA. Salt levels in some samples were at impossibly high levels, showing that they had been tampered with. (Salt was used to balance certain prerecorded chemistry specifications.) Many of the sample bottles had scratches and marks on the inside of the caps, also indicating tampering.

■ If Russian athletes tested positive despite the other safeguards, the tests were simply reported as negative. This occurred more than 500 times.

■ At the same time he was making breakthroughs on detection of drugs, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s antidoping lab, was using his knowledge to create a drug cocktail known as Duchess. That cocktail, of osandrolone, methenolone and trenbolone, had a shorter detection window because it included liquor, and it was regularly used by Russian athletes.

■ Numerous athletes have been marked for retesting as a result of these findings, so there could be many more retroactive disqualifications to come.

LONDON — International sports’ antidoping watchdog on Friday laid out mountainous evidence that for years Russian officials orchestrated a doping program at the Olympics and other competitions that involved or benefited 1,000 athletes in 30 sports. The findings intensified pressure on the International Olympic Committee to reassess Russia’s medals from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and penalize the nation ahead of the 2018 Winter Games.

The evidence, published by the World Anti-Doping Agency, was the coda to a set of investigations led by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who issued a damning report in July that prompted more than 100 Russian athletes to be barred from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The follow-up report outlined competitions that had been tainted by years of extraordinary preparations, ensuring Russia’s dominance at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 2013 track and field world championships in Moscow and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — the “apex” of Russia’s cheating, the report said, because as the host of the event it controlled drug testing.

The subterfuge included using table salt and Nescafé instant-coffee granules to help conceal tainted urine and bypass controls, according to the inquiry. Some samples were clearly fraudulent: Urine provided by two female hockey players at the Sochi Games contained male DNA.

Yet Mr. McLaren suggested that the full extent of the cheating might never be known.

“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” he said on Friday, calling the “immutable facts” of his report clear but far from comprehensive. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians.”

Mr. McLaren concluded last summer that Russia had orchestrated rampant doping dating back years that culminated in an elaborate urine-swapping operation at the 2014 Sochi Games, confirming what The New York Times reported in May.

But in the face of staunch denials from Russian officials and skepticism from sports authorities reluctant to punish the nation on his word, he and a team have continued their work these last five months.

Asked for their evidence, they zeroed in on the individuals who had enabled the cheating as well as those who had benefited from it, publishing on Friday 1,166 pieces of proof, including emails, documents and scientific and forensic analysis of doping samples.

As part of the inquiry, the team examined some 120 urine samples of Russian athletes from Sochi out of at least 250 that have been preserved since 2014. All the samples Mr. McLaren examined had been tampered with, he said, including those of 15 medalists — including winners of gold.

From the 2012 London Games, Mr. McLaren identified 15 medalists whose doping violations had been concealed. Ten of them have been stripped of their medals, the report said, after widespread retesting this year.

The names of most of the implicated athletes were redacted — they were referred to by unique sets of numbers — but their identities had been privately shared with relevant officials for each sport’s global governing body, Mr. McLaren said, emphasizing that it was not his job to issue penalties.

Outside of the Olympics, sports governing bodies have autonomy over disciplining athletes for violations like doping or manipulating samples.

Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., said in a statement on Friday that the report’s findings demonstrated “a fundamental attack on the integrity of sport.” On Thursday, he had said that “any athlete who took part in such a sophisticated manipulation system” should be excluded from attending future Olympics in any capacity.

Mr. Bach said all urine samples retained from Russian athletes who competed in the 2014 Sochi Games would be re-examined, along with those from the 2012 London Games that have not yet been retested.

The I.O.C. has appointed two commissions in response to Mr. McLaren’s report. A team is expected to examine the Sochi doping samples for evidence of banned substances — though unlikely to find any if tainted urine was substituted — as well as other signs of tampering.

On Friday, Mr. Bach called Mr. McLaren to thank him for his work, which he previously had greeted with skepticism.

“It was a big change from the reaction in July,” Mr. McLaren said.

The Russian sports ministry said in a statement that it was studying the report “to formulate a constructive position,” denying the existence of any state-sponsored doping programs in sports and promising to “continue the fight against doping from the positions of ‘zero tolerance.’”

The ministry pledged its cooperation with global sports and antidoping authorities to improve Russia’s antidoping operations.

Mr. McLaren’s report described the lengths to which various branches of the Russian government went to shield the nation’s antidoping lab from scrutiny. In 2014, when World Anti-Doping Agency inspectors were due to make a surprise visit to the Moscow lab, personnel at the Ministry of Sport tipped the lab off to their trip after learning they had applied for visas.

The evidence also included crucial communications between Russia’s former deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh — who was dismissed amid scandal last summer — and Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the nation’s former antidoping lab director, who told The Times last spring exactly how he had helped top Russian athletes dope on state orders.

He described an operation out of a spy thriller in which he, with the guidance of sports officials and the help of members of the country’s intelligence service, broke into supposedly tamper-proof bottles every night to replace urine tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier.

Mr. Nagornykh and the sports ministry gave Dr. Rodchenkov explicit direction to cover up top athletes’ use of performance-enhancing steroids, according to emails and spreadsheets.

Mr. McLaren’s report and an accompanying searchable website of evidenceleave little doubt that Russia’s doping program was among the most sophisticated in sports history, perhaps ranking only behind that of the East German regime.

Some felt it was worse after reading the details.

“Even in the darkest days of state-sponsored doping in the former East Bloc in the 1970s and 1980s, the organized drugging of athletes was not also propped up by the deliberate corruption of antidoping measures on such a shocking scale,” said Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations, based in Germany.

He called for the I.O.C. to exclude Russia from the Olympics until it was “demonstrably free of the will to subvert the fundamental values and spirit of sport.”

The I.O.C. commissions’ work is expected to lay the foundation for disciplinary action against even more Russian Olympians, after a year in which dozens have been penalized and more than 100 barred from global competition.

Leading up to the report’s release on Friday, sports officials had braced themselves for the final set of facts with which the disciplinary authorities would be expected to work.

“I hope it’s all for nothing,” Gian-Franco Kasper, an I.O.C. executive and president of skiing’s global governing body, said during a smoke break in Switzerland this week in the middle of a full day of closed-door meetings with sports officials who were anticipating the McLaren report.

“For the winter sports federations, we’re in the middle of the season,” Mr. Kasper said. “We’re going to have to react immediately. In the middle of the competition, it’s not easy.”

Winter sports officials could encounter acute pressure similar to that faced by summer sports officials this year when they had about two weeks to rule on which Russian athletes could compete in Rio after Mr. McLaren’s report.

Russia is set to hold the world championships in bobsled and skeleton in Sochi in two months. American athletes have talked about boycotting that event as a show of dissatisfaction with sports officials’ handling of the Russian doping scandal. The governing body for those sports said on Friday that it would give “highest priority and urgency” to reacting to the new details.

On Thursday, less than 24 hours before the report’s publication, Mr. Bach repeated the Olympic committee’s guidance that sports federations freeze or terminate their preparations for hosting events in Russia.

But ahead of Friday, Mr. Bach had little idea what to expect. Mr. McLaren had closely guarded his findings, declining to share them earlier with Olympic officials as they requested; he instead waited to make the package public on Friday. He will be cooperating with the I.O.C. commissions going forward, he said.

One of the chief criticisms Russian officials and some global sports authorities made of Mr. McLaren’s initial work was that he had not heard Russia’s side of the story. In Friday’s report, he addressed that possible vulnerability, invoking his communications with Vitaly Smirnov, a former longtime Olympic official from Russia whom President Vladimir V. Putin appointed last summer to lead antidoping reform.

Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s former minister of sport, whom Mr. Putin recently elevated to deputy prime minister, did not accept Mr. McLaren’s request for a meeting, the report said.

Mr. Smirnov’s statements about reforming Russia, Mr. McLaren suggested on Friday, may be the most direct sort of admission he expects to receive that the “institutional conspiracy” he detailed took place. In setting his findings out, Mr. McLaren called for an end to infighting in global sports and unity in fighting cheating.

“Russia needs to get its act together to change the culture,” Olivier Niggli, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said, echoing something Mr. Mutko himself acknowledged to The Times in July.

“Hopefully this will help the Russians themselves to accept the facts and take a positive attitude toward changing things rather than saying this is a plot from the West with no evidence,” Mr. Niggli said. “It’s in the public domain, and everybody can look at it.”

Yuliya Stepanova: What do Russians think of doping whistleblower?

By Lucy AshBBC News
  • 30 December 2016
  • From the sectionMagazine
Yuliya Stepanova in 2007Yuliya Stepanova in 2007, the year she started doping
Yuliya Stepanova in 2007, the year she started doping

  • Fearing for her safety, Russian 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova fled her country after she revealed the dirty secrets of doping in Russian athletics. She has been called the greatest whistleblower in the history of sport but what do people think of the athlete in her homeland?

An elderly woman has dragged her rug outside for an airing and flings it over a washing line as snowflakes whirl through the air. "That girl is a traitor," she says. "She blackened our government and the whole country." She whacks the carpet hard. "Yuliya was taking those drugs herself and now she tries to look whiter than white!"

We are on the industrial outskirts of Kursk in south-west Russia, among crumbling concrete flats and old houses - many of them wooden and at at wonky angles to the ground. Overhead the red and white striped chimneys of the power plant pump out clouds of steam into the icy air.

The rug thumper tells me she lives in the same staircase as the athlete's family. Stepanova's mother, Lyuba, is out but I meet her stepfather, Sergei, who is about to start a shift at his factory making conveyor belts for coal mines.

a snowy street in the neighbourhood

He tells me that after his stepdaughter left Russia, his wife was harangued at the hospital where she works for raising "such an unpatriotic daughter". Not surprisingly, Lyuba wants to keep a low profile and isn't keen on an interview.

Mentioning Yuliya Stepanova's name is not always a wise thing to do. At her old school, when we ask if we could meet some of her former teachers, the livid-looking headmistress almost throws us off the premises.

But there is some support for her in Kursk. "Sport must be honest so I think she did the right thing", says a girl out shopping with her mother in the town centre. At a bus stop, an engineering student says, "I can't say I'm proud of her but she did what needed to be done." Even a stern-looking pensioner is unexpectedly supportive. Yuliya acted "according to her conscience", she tells me, and "betrayed nobody".

The official stance towards Stepanova is hostile, though. President Putin's spokesman called her a "Judas". Newspaper headlines and cartoons portray her as a self-publicist or a money -grabber. Online there are even calls for her "liquidation".

A cartoon on the Russian website depicts Yuliya Stepanova and her husband accepting moneyImage copyrightFEDERAL NEWS AGENCY/RIAFAN.RUImage captionA cartoon on depicts Yuliya Stepanova and her husband accepting money

Many here blame her revelations about Russia's state-run doping system for the ban on the country's entire track and field team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She knew the system well because for six years she was part of it.

Her doping career began in 2007 when her coach in Kursk, Vladimir Mokhnev, gave her testosterone injections. Currently suspended by the International Athletics Federation, Mokhnev denies her accusations but Stepanova kept a careful record of all the drugs she was taking.

Stepanova (centre) with fellow athletes and trainer Vladimir MokhnevImage captionStepanova (centre) with fellow athletes and trainer Vladimir Mokhnev

Before long she had moved on to anabolic steroids and erythropoietin, the hormone that boosts red-blood-cell production. Her performance quickly improved and she was given a place on the national team.

At this point, a top sports scientist and expert on doping, Dr Sergei Portugalov, assured her that she could "run dirty" in the national championships and that he would ensure any positive test result would be covered up, she says. But in 2013 her blood passport showed abnormalities and she was banned from competition for two years. She became pregnant. Together with her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former anti-doping official, she decided to report her coaches to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Media captionYuliya Stepanova talks to the BBC for the 100 Women season about the cheating, cover-ups and life on the run.

Stepanova wrote a 10-page confession about all the drugs she had taken, who had given them to her and everything she had witnessed. But when nothing happened, she realised she need more proof and began secretly recording meetings on her mobile phone. With the phone discreetly tucked into an outer pocket of her bag, and the video function rolling, she contrived meetings in which the cream of Russian athletics were captured discussing the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

So many were killed or sent to prison because of informants in the Stalin era - so we do not welcome whistleblowers... it is part of our mentalityAnna Antseliovich, Russian anti-doping agency (Rusada)

Those tapes were broadcast on German televisionand led to an investigation by Wada in November 2015 in which Stepanova, in her role as a key informant, is named more than 100 times.

There followed two reports commissioned by Wada from an independent investigator, Richard McLaren.

The first, based on the testimony of a former director of Russia's anti-doping lab, described foul-play at the Sochi Olympics - a state security agent disguised as a plumber, steroid-and-whisky cocktails for Russian athletes and doctored urine samples smuggled through secret mouse holes in the wall of a laboratory.

The second, published earlier this month, was even more damning, and concluded Russia had been systematically cheating for four years from 2011, making what amounted to "an unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport".


Find out more

Yuliya Stepanova training at nightline

But despite all the evidence in these reports, backed up by lab tests, forensic reports and testimony from other insiders, the authorities seem to be in denial. Svetlana Zhurova, a former speed skater and now a deputy in the Duma, Russia's parliament, ridicules the idea of state-sponsored doping.

"We do have some athletes who break the law and coaches who supply drugs but what has the government got to do with it?" she asks. "Do you think that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin controls each sportsperson and says, 'Take these tablets?' That is not happening and will never happen."

Stepanova should have reported doping abuses to the Russian police, she says. When I suggest that the athlete may have been too scared, Zhurova is scornful.

"Why was she scared? Just look how many corruption cases are under investigation at the moment. We live in different times. This isn't the Soviet Union!"

Yuliya Stepanova in the uniform of the Soviet Pioneer youth movementImage captionYuliya Stepanova in the uniform of the Soviet Pioneer youth movement

Artyom Patsev, a Moscow lawyer representing several athletes accused of doping tells me his clients reject the evidence and call Stepanova a self-interested hypocrite.

This so called 'doping scandal' will allow us to create the most advanced system to fight this evil.Vladimir Putin, Russian president

"She is not a hero because there's nothing brave in what she did," he says. "The main motive for her, as for any other athlete who is and who was doping, is a financial motive."

Actually Stepanova received nothing in return for her evidence. She served a full two-year suspension for taking drugs herself. She's been doing her best to pay back the prize money she won by deception. And she's given up a well-paid career in Russian athletics.

Many Russians tell me the country's athletes have been unfairly targeted, thanks to Stepanova's whistleblowing, when doping is a worldwide problem - not just a Russian one.

In response to this accusation, Travis Tygart, head of America's anti-doping agency, Usada, acknowledges that there are cheaters everywhere, but says doping in Russia is on a completely different scale. "When you have a state system that corrupts the laboratory, corrupts the sports systems, corrupts the athletes, the coaches who coach the athletes, the doctors that advise the athletes, that's just not the same at all," he says.

Two men walk on an indoor track in KurskImage captionIt's too cold in Kursk to train outside in winterWhite line 10 pixelsStepanova (right) as a child - her father used to beat her mother and siblingsImage captionStepanova (right) as a child - her father used to beat her mother and siblings

Despite all the anger directed towards Stepanova many find it hard to deny that something has gone badly wrong inside Russian sport.

To me there's nobody who has done more for the anti-doping movement - no whistleblower comes within a million milesDavid Walsh, Journalist

In his State of the Union address earlier this month Vladimir Putin said foreign powers had leant on his country in various ways, from spreading "myths about Russian aggression" to "besmirching our athletes". But despite his spokesman's earlier denunciation of Stepanova as a traitor, he also acknowledged there was a problem. "Every cloud has a silver lining", he said. "This so-called 'doping scandal' will allow us to create the most advanced system to fight this evil."

Anna Antseliovich, the acting general director the Russian anti-doping agency, Rusada, insists her agency is grateful to Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, its former employee. But she adds that many Russians were deeply troubled by the way in which Stepanova collected her evidence. "So many were killed or sent to prison because of informants in the Stalin era. So we do not welcome whistleblowers - it is part of our mentality."

When Yuliya Stepanova couldn't finish the 800m race at the European Championships in July because of a foot injury, there was little sympathy for her.

Stepanova walks off the track after her injury at the European ChampionshipsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionStepanova walks off the track after her injury in Amsterdam

"I didn't expect much - Yuliya is very weak psychologically and she can only run when she has been doping," her former coach Vladimir Kazarin told Sport Express newspaper. He added that if she was really training clean "then she won't achieve anything and won't get to her former levels".

To those who dismiss her so lightly, both in Russia and the wider world, David Walsh, the journalist who brought down the cyclist Lance Armstrong - perhaps the world's most famous drugs cheat - says it's time to think again.

"People have kind of said, 'Oh well she's a doper.' Well those people are showing a huge lack of empathy for where she's come from and what she's done. If they bothered to look closely at her story, they'd have nothing but unqualified admiration for what Yuliya Stepanova has done," he says. "Now to me, you know, there's nobody who has done more for the anti-doping movement. No whistleblower comes within a million miles."

Stepanova with partner Vitaly and their sonImage captionStepanova with partner Vitaly and their son

Stepanova is now determined to prove that she can succeed as a clean athlete. She is training hard and hopes to qualify for the 2017 World Championships in London next summer. It is not easy because she has to prepare on her own. When she approached a coach in the American city where she now lives, she replied it was "too dangerous" for her to take her on.

In a country she doesn't know, with a language she is only beginning to learn, her life has been turned upside-down. But she has few regrets about the turbulence she's brought to world athletics.

I ask how she will feel if in the future she finds herself competing alongside Russian athletes who say she betrayed them?

"If they want to hate me that's their problem," she says. "I don't consider that I've done anything wrong, I told the truth, I tried to help, and if they prefer to lie that's their problem and their hatred stays with them."

Yuliya StepanovaWhite line 10 pixels