The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) this week released a report accusing the National Anti-Doping Organization of Ukraine (NADC) of violating global testing protocols for performance-enhancing drugs.
The investigation, known as “Operation Hercules,” was launched in 2019. WADA says that it has uncovered evidence to suggest that since 2012, the Ukrainian anti-doping authority has “conducted unjustified advance-noticed sample collegtions, arranging to test athletes – including groups of athletes – by appointment at NADC offices.”
The International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) states that, except in “exceptional and justifiable circumstances,” that there should be no advanced warning to an athlete of a pending test. WADA calls this a “fundamental feature of an effective, unpredictable testing program.”
“‘Operation Hercules’ has convincing and corroborated evidence that NADC was engaged in the practice of telephoning athletes or contacting them through their coaches to request their attendance at the NADC, the following day, for testing,” said WADA Intelligence and Investigations Director Gunter Younger. “The evidence suggests that NADC would adopt this practice often before important international events and there were times when an entire discipline of the national team was present at the NADC awaiting testing.”
Operation Hercules also uncovered “compelling evidence” to suggest that in 2021, the Ukrainian authority treated at least six in-competition samples as out-of-competition samples. There are different rules for which substances are allowed for use in competition and out of competition, including, among others, marijuana.
WADA says that this was done to meet requirements on out-of-competition tests for athletes before attending the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Younger said: “The evidence suggests the samples were misreported under instruction and for the purposes of meeting the minimum number of out-of-competition tests required from an athlete prior to attending the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The failure to correctly record a sample as either in or out-of-competition has ramifications that affect the analysis conducted by the laboratory as some substances and methods are prohibited in competition only. In this way, a positive test could be incorrectly categorized as negative and an athlete could evade an anti-doping rule violation as a result.
“‘Operation Hercules’ has raised serious questions about the integrity of NADC’s testing practices, and the competence of some staff. Moreover, the apparent longevity and brazenness of these practices suggests significant organizational failings within NADC.”
Investigators have referred their findings to the Compliance, Rules, and Standards Department, as well as the Testing Department, at WADA, and WADA has launched a compliance process under the provisions under the International Standard for Code Compliance.
Names of those involved in the investigation have been withheld.
It wasn’t all negative findings from Operation Hercules. Also investigated was allegations that a doping and protection scheme existed within the Ukrainian Athletics Federation, but no evidence was found to support that charge. There was evidence of EPO trafficking by an individual within the athletics federation; however, that individual has denied the allegation. That matter has been referred to the Athletes Integrity Unit.
The top two leaders of the NADC resigned after the release of the WADA report.
“The NADC has violated the international testing standard. Today, the director of the NADC, Ivan Kurlishchuk, and his deputy, Yaroslav Kruchek, resigned,” Ukraine Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait said in a statement on October 27, effectively admitting to the findings in the report.
“The ministry states that we take a clear position in the fight against doping and will not allow anyone to violate anti-doping rules,” the statement reads.
Huttsait himself was a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in fencing.
Ukraine won 19 medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including 1 gold, 6 silver, and 12 bronze.
Swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk won two of those medals, a silver in the 1500 free and a bronze in the 800 free. A further two of those medals came in artistic swimming (synchronized swimming), one each in the duet and team events.