According to reports by the Associated Press, disputes erupted between Russian countrymen on Thursday during the World Conference On Doping In Sport in Katowice, Poland, increasing the tension in advance of a decision that could determine the country’s fate for next summer’s Tokyo Games.
The fierce nature of the Russian doping saga spilled into full view when the country’s sports minister, Pavel Kolobkov, returning to Moscow from an anti-doping conference in Poland, said there had been no manipulation of crucial doping data handed to the World Anti-Doping Agency earlier this year.
In response to Kolobkov’s comments, Yuri Ganus, the leader of the newly reconfigured Russian Anti-Doping Agency, indicated that “he lives in the world of illusion.”
Kolobkov insisted there were no deletions or manipulations of the data, and that it was “a purely technical issue related to how the system itself works.”
“Yuri … needs to do his own job and not interpret documents which don’t contain the information he is expressing publicly,” Kolobkov said. “The so-called manipulations which Yuri … is talking about aren’t there, and that word isn’t mentioned anywhere.”
Regardless of the presence of the word “manipulations,” Kolobkov’s assertion stands in direct contrast to a report done for track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, in September.
That report, based on information provided by WADA, said the discrepancies “are not random. In many cases, they relate to positive findings that appear” in the database provided by a Russian whistleblower that is being cross-referenced with that from the Moscow lab.
The lab data had been guarded by Russian law enforcement at the Moscow lab. WADA negotiated to acquire it in order to corroborate positive tests resulting from Russia’s doping program.
The head of WADA’s compliance committee said the committee will deliver a recommendation to the WADA executive committee on Nov. 17. If that committee finds the data was tampered with, it could deliver a suspension to RUSADA, which would cripple the country’s chances of taking athletes to the Olympics next year.
Recently, we reported that Russian state hackers attacked the computer networks of at least 16 national and international sports and anti-doping organizations. The Times cited Microsoft as confirming the attacks were committed by state hackers. The attacks are the latest in a series of brazen Russian cyberattacks on foreign politicians, sporting officials, and anti-doping regulators.
The attacks were timed as the World Anti-Doping Agency deals with the continued fallout from the 2015 Russian doping scandal, which caused many of its Olympic athletes to face a ban from the Games, while the country was excluded from taking part at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
In 2018, Russia was officially barred from the Winter Games, but 168 athletes competed under the title “Olympic Athlete from Russia” after IOC vetting of their drug-testing records.
Ganus has strongly criticized his own government, and this week, he even asked for President Vladimir Putin to chime in and support the effort of his reformed agency.
On Thursday, faced with Kolobkov’s comments, Ganus insisted on the need for help, not denial, from his own government, which has been involved in directing the doping program that started all the trouble.
“I feel that the people who stole the hope are the ones who were responsible for bringing the country out of this crisis,” Ganus said. “They’re responsible, first of all, to the current and future generations of athletes.”
The day before, while still in Poland, Kolobkov gave a speech in front of the full WADA board.
“Now, there has become a vital need for a new generation of athletes,” Kolobkov said, while also reminding the audience “that sport is out of politics, that sport unites.”
However, upon his return to Russia, he spurred an argument with his country’s own sports federations, appearing to toughen his country’s attitude on the source of the data flaws —all contrary to what his own anti-doping chief has been saying for weeks.
“All these issues will be discussed and I’m sure all these issues will be explained,” Kolobkov said.
Ganus said he’s fairly certain that WADA isn’t going to care why the data was manipulated, only the fact that it was manipulated.
“The requirement was for the transfer of an authentic database, untouched,” Ganus said.
Yuri Ganus, the head of the Russian anti-doping agency, said earlier this month that Russia doctored “thousands” of samples, and he says the data could have been manipulated to protect the reputations of star athletes who now hold key government or sport administration positions. Ganus also said that manipulation of the data could only be done by people with access to some of Russia’s most powerful institutions.
Ganus was the official who last December publicly called on Vladimir Putin to turn over data from the Moscow lab out of concern that Russian athletes would be suspended from international competition if the deadline were missed.
Russia is now in a race against time with less than a year to go until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
SwimSwam’s Jared Anderson contributed to this report.