The world of athletics has been thrown into turmoil with confirmation today from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of rampant state-sponsored doping in Russia and complicity by officials of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
An independent WADA commission has investigated and reported on allegations of doping, cover-ups and extortion in Russian athletics that have implicated the IAAF. The report recommended that Russia be banned from athletics competition and highlighted “systemic failures” in the IAAF that have prevented an effective anti-doping programme.
The report noted that the London 2012 Olympics were sabotaged by the widespread inaction against Russian athletes with suspicious doping profiles by the IAAF and the Russian athletics federation. Russia finished second behind the United States in the medal table at the 2012 Olympics, with 17 medals, eight of them gold, and has long been one of the chief players in track and field.
WADA commission leader Dick Pound said today that Russia seemed to have been running a “state-supported” doping programme.
“For 2016 our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended. In fact one of our hopes is that they will volunteer that, so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework if you like,” Pound said.
Pound added: “It’s worse than we thought, It has the effect of factually affecting the results on the field and play, and athletes, both in Russia and abroad, are suffering as a result. It maybe a residue of the old Soviet system…they must stop it and make a new start.
“I hope they’ll say this is an opportunity to get rid of the old system, get rid of the old coaches and change their ways. If they (Russia) do the surgery, and do the therapy, I hope they can get there (Rio de Janeiro) and compete,” Pound said.
In an IAAF statement, president of the association Lord Sebastian Coe described the information in the WADA report as “alarming” and said he would seek approval from the governing body’s council members to consider sanctions against the Russian athletics federation (Araf), which could include suspension.
However Russia’s sport minister, Vitaly Mutko, has denied all allegations, while Araf has accused WADA of circumventing established protocols for dealing with doping.
The WADA report’s co-author, sports lawyer Richard McLaren, described the developments as “a different scale of corruption” even when compared with football’s ongoing FIFA scandal. McLaren said actual results at international athletics competitions had been changed because of cheating.
Among the many revelations of the report were: many instances of inadequate testing and poor compliance around testing standards; that director of the Moscow laboratory Grigory Rodchenko accepted bribes and intentionally destroyed samples he was told to keep; that some Russian doctors and/or laboratory personnel acted as enablers for systematic cheating along with athletics coaches; the intentional and malicious destruction of more than 1,400 samples by Moscow laboratory officials after receiving written notification from WADA to preserve target samples; that Rusada gave athletes advance notice of tests, hid missed tests, bullied doping control officers and their families and took bribes to cover up missed tests; that a number of Russian athletes suspected of doping could have been prevented from competing at the London 2012 Olympics had it not been for the collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy adopted by the IAAF and the Russian athletics federation.
Today chairman of the National Anti-Doping Commission of Barbados and the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organisation, Dr Adrian Lorde, described the developments as “shocking” and a dark day for world athletics. He however noted that it was to WADA’s credit that it had exposed the sordid situation.
He described as particularly disturbing the revelations that doping In Russia on such a scale appeared to be sanctioned at the state level. He said the IAAF had a difficult task ahead to recover from the scandal especially where its reputation was already being questioned in many quarters
“This puts a further dent into the integrity of the sport,” he noted.
Dr Lorde told Barbados TODAY he was pleased that WADA was doing the job for which it had been created. He added there were other countries that were under the agency’s microscope, even if the level of doping and corruption was not as widespread as what has been exposed in Russia.
In global reaction today British sports minister Tracey Crouch called the findings an “extraordinarily dark day for athletics”. Former British Olympian Roger Black echoed Crouch’s reaction. “If you’re looking at a governing body as corrupt, and they are protecting the guilty athletes, then that changes everything going forward.
“There’s always been an assumption that your governing body is there for you as an athlete, and is there to sort out the cheats.
“It’s a very dark day.”
Tessa Jowell, former Olympics minister, noted: “This is what destroys public faith in the competition they see on their televisions or go to see. There is very clear a problem of culture.”
Only last week former IAAF president Lamine Diack was arrested by French authorities on suspicion of accepting a €1m pound bribe from Russian officials to cover up positive doping results.
The international police body Interpol has said it will coordinate a French-led global investigation into doping allegations in athletics.
“The world police body is now working with member countries potentially linked to the inquiry, including Singapore, to seek assistance in coordinating a global investigative network and support the criminal investigation on the basis of the intelligence gathered by the [WADA] independent commission,” the statement from Interpol indicated.