As reported earlier today, according to the English publication, The Times, Russia has undertaken systematic doping in swimming for years, spotlighted by Russian 100m breaststroke World Champion Yulia Efimova having tested positively for meldonium just recently, the 2nd positive test of a banned substance in her career.
Dr. Sergei Portugalov, the Chief of Russian Athletics Federation’s Medical Commission was the primary individual named in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report on systemic doping within Russia’s athletics organization released several months ago. Portugalov allegedly provided banned substances to Russian athletes and was also involved in providing prohibited substances to those in swimming, per The Times.
Australian Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren is not exactly surprised at the allegations extending to Russian swimming. “After the athletics (scandal) it should come as little surprise but it’s still shocking,’’ Verhaeren told The Australian. “This is system-wide across many sports and it’s very, very unfortunate.’’
The Times included sources’ claims of systemic doping within the sport of swimming in Russia, which included a scene at the FINA World Cup in Russia last year when he saw ‘a desk next to the pool with 2 persons having medicine, pills, bottles, etc on it, right in front of everything.’ Said the source, “this is just one of many things that ‘tell us we should be concerned about Russian swimming.” (The Australian)
In terms of leveling the playing field with Rio now just 135 days away, Verhaeren points to a blanket policy of possibly banning the entire nation of Russia from the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I feel for the Russian athletes who have nothing to do with doping but if the system is involved then there’s no other option than a ban from the Olympics,’’ he said. “It’s time for sport to make a statement. We have to protect the integrity of the sport.’’
Moving forward, Verhaeren suggests ways of making drug-testing as impartial as possible. Having WADA or another independent organization take on the responsibility for drug-testing takes the protocol out of the hands of individual nations and federations, which helps eliminate conflicts of interest says Verhaeren. He also believes testing needs to indeed be unpredictable and inconvenient to be effective, “for the greater good of clean sport.”
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Chief Ben McDevitt reiterates that ‘multiple tests in short time frames could be a valuable tool in the fight against doping.’ He conveyed that his organization makes ‘no apology for our efforts to protect clean sport and clean athletes.’