The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has received the results of its Independent Commission’s Report today, which focused mostly on Russian Athletics, but could have some major implications for the sport of swimming. (Our earlier coverage of the report)
Most notable: the Independent Commission Report alleges that there has been significant government interference with the WADA-accredited Moscow anti-doping lab, the same lab that tested all samples from the 2015 FINA World Championships.
Moscow Lab Compromised?
The Independent Commission Report also reported “severe deficiencies in the operations at the Moscow [anti-doping] laboratory.” Most troubling was the report’s claim that the Russian Ministry of Sport had “asserted influence over the Moscow laboratory” when anti-doping labs are to be strictly independent to ensure fair testing.
According to the Associated Press, Russian Sports minster Vitaly Mutko denied wrongdoing and said he was “disgusted with the whistleblowers” whose claims led to the Independent Commission’s investigation.
Some of the most egregious accusations in the report:
Ministry of Sport Instructing Lab To Manipulate Samples: workers in the labs wouldn’t give specific names, but said the Ministry of Sport had specifically told the lab to “manipulate particular samples”: lab personnel were quoted in the report saying “there is no need [to know the names] because the instructions are directly from the Ministry of Sport…”
Government Agents Working Undercover in the Doping Lab: personnel in the Moscow lab alleged that government actors were actually physically present in the lab during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: “[L]ast time in Sochi, we had some guys pretending to be engineers in the lab but actually they were from the federal security service, let’s call it the new KGB; FSB,” the report reads.
Concealment Of Positive Drug Tests: The report includes multiple cases in which athletes or lab personnel allege that positive doping tests were concealed in exchange for large sums of money. The report: “these investigative reports demonstrate strong corroborating evidence that the Moscow laboratory has been involved in a widespread cover-up of positive doping tests.”
Destruction of Samples Before WADA audit: After a German documentary made allegations of massive doping violations within Russia, WADA scheduled an audit of the Moscow testing lab. According to the report, WADA e-mailed the director of the lab, telling him to retain all samples the lab had on hand for the audit. But when WADA arrived for the audit, it discovered that the director had ordered the disposal of almost 1,500 samples in what he told WADA was “some clean up to prepare for WADA’s visit.”
Ultimately, the Independent Commission concluded that “many tests the laboratory has conducted should be considered highly suspect.”
The Moscow lab was the official laboratory testing all samples from this past summer’s 2015 FINA World Swimming Championships.
Russian Athletics under threat of suspension
Most of the coverage of the Independent Commission report so far has focused on the first major bombshell it dropped on the sporting world: it recommended suspending the entire Russian Athletics Federation (which governs track & field) until the nation cleans up its doping act.
More specific to the world of swimming, though, the report didn’t rule out that the violations it discovered were isolated only to track & field. The report noted that it was commissioned specifically to address athletics in Russia, adding that “there is no reason to believe that Athletics is the only sport in Russia to have been affected by the identified systemic failures.”
No less than 10 Russian swimmers have been slapped with doping suspensions over the past two years:
- Open Water world champ Vladimir Dyatchin
- European champ Ksenia Moskvina and Olympian Ekaterina Andreeva
- European champs medalist Vitaly Melnikov
- Euros relay swimmer Olga Klyuchnikova
- Five swimmers including Russian champ Anastasia Krapivina
- Former World Record-holder Yulia Efimova
The Independent Commission says it hasn’t found any written evidence of government involvement in the widespread doping within Russian athletics, but said “it would be naïve in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities.”
WADA can’t suspend Russia’s athletics federation itself, but called on the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to make that move.
The ongoing story has special significance for swimming given that Russia’s sports minister publicly warned the Russian swimming federation last summer that it could face a similar suspension if doping violations continued.