DopingNewsMcLaren Report II: Systematic Doping Continued After Sochi Games

Jason Albert Jason AlbertDecember 9, 2016

(Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from the International Ski Federation regarding the most recent McLaren report, as well as comments from IBU President Anders Besseberg.)

On Friday morning in London, Professor Richard McLaren held a press conference to discuss the release and findings in what is being called the ‘Independent Person 2nd Report by Professor Richard H. McLaren, O.C.  December 2016‘.

The initial McLaren bombshell came in July when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) disclosed its findings about alleged systematic state-sponsored doping in Russia.

McLaren’s investigative mandate was to further disclose the extent to which Russia’s anti-doping authorities manipulated doping-control samples and how they beat international testing protocols.

Friday’s report disclosed more evidence of systematic Russian doping that McLaren concludes dates back to at least 2011 and continued after the Sochi Olympic Games.

The major findings released today include this: more than 1,000 Russian athletes in more than 30 different sports were involved in the doping coverup. McLaren called it “a coverup that operated on an unprecedented scale” in his opening remarks.

Of those 1,000 athletes, 600 (84 percent) are summer athletes whereas 95 (16 percent) are winter athletes. Those 695 names were reported to 32 international sports federations. The remaining 305 were more or less special cases that could not be disclosed for confidentiality reasons, McLaren explained.

The report states that the “coverup” and “manipulation” of the doping-control process was fine-tuned during the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2013 Universiade Games, 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

On page 27, the report’s authors did not mince words when it came to describing the freedom to which some Russian athletes could affect a race’s outcome during the 2014 Winter Games:

“The Winter Olympics in Sochi debuted the ultimate fail-safe mechanism in the Russian’s sample swapping progression. A protected winter Olympics competitor likely to medal did not have to worry about his or her doping activities. They could dope up to, and possibly throughout, the Games as they could count on their dirty sample being swapped at the Sochi Laboratory.”

Specific violations that occurred during the Sochi Games were sample swapping and tampering.

“Two female hockey players’ samples contained male DNA … and eight Sochi samples revealed salt content not physically possible in a healthy human,” McLaren stated, explaining that Russian specialized agents, dubbed “magicians”, used salt and “Nescafé coffee granules” to manipulate the samples.

More specifically, McLaren’s team found “physiological impossible” salt readings in two Russian athletes that were “winners of 4 Sochi Olympic gold medals” and a female silver-medal winner.

“Twelve medal winning athletes (including the above 3) from 44 examined samples had scratches and marks on the inside of the caps of their B sample bottles, indicating tampering,” the report stated. “Six winners of 21 Paralympic medals are found to have had their urine samples tampered with at Sochi.”

For Russian doping authorities, the process of preventing samples from testing positive became a nimble and evolving cat-and-mouse game. Russia’s infrastructure put in place to beat the testing protocol was able to evolve, “in response to WADA regulatory changes and surprise interventions,” the report stated. 

“For every action by WADA, there was a Russian reaction,” McLaren said.

The first McLaren report detailed the intricate swapping of positive tests for clean tests during the Sochi Games. The second McLaren report alleges that the same protocol continued after the Sochi Games concluded and became a routine “monthly practice” at the Moscow Laboratory at the center of the doping coverup.

“After Sochi, the sample swapping happened approximately every month,” McLaren said. “The ‘magicians’ would be called to the Moscow laboratory to swap … about five to 20 samples … per month.”

How did they get away with tampering with supposedly tamper-proof bottles? According to McLaren, forensics experts determined that “thin strips of the metal were most likely used. They have to be flexible enough to bend and fit between the lid and the bottle, but also strong enough to pull up the metal ratchet ring.”

And who is responsible at the very top? While McLaren’s report does not name Vladimir Putin, it does include former Russian Ministry of Sport Vitaly Mutko (who has since been promoted to deputy prime minister). Mutko appointed Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, for the job back in 2011 — when doping efforts were found to have begun ramping up for the 2012 London Olympics.

McLaren later explained that there was no evidence that Russian Olympic Committee members were directly involved. He also stressed that this “institutional conspiracy” dates back to at least 2011.

“It is impossible to know how far back the conspiracy goes,” he said. “… Sports fans and spectators have been deceived. It’s time that stops.”

Athletes affected by the post-Sochi sample swapping technique include elite summer and winter athletes. McLaren wrote that the report’s conclusions were established not by verbal testimony, but by testing physical evidence.

“The key findings of the first report remain unchanged,” he said. “Evidence does not depend on verbal testimony from anyone to draw a conclusion, but rather tests the physical evidence and draws a conclusion from the results.”

As of press time, neither McLaren, his report, nor WADA mentioned any athletes by name. McLaren said the evidence has been passed on to WADA, which is asking specific sport federations to handle specific athlete cases. 

“It has not been put in the public domain. That will be up to sports federations who have received the information,” he said.

In a press release on Friday, WADA noted that the evidence, described by McLaren’s “Investigation Team as being ‘based on immutable facts’ will be of immediate value to the IFs [International Federations], the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and other organizations — those that are responsible for the Results Management and Adjudication process related to potential anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code).

“In terms of next steps, the Investigation Team is providing WADA with an Evidentiary Summary for each athlete referred to in the Report by alpha-numeric code,” the press release continued. “Starting today, WADA will provide these Summaries to all IFs whose athletes are mentioned within the Report; as well as, to the IOC, the IPC and other relevant organizations. Once in possession of these Summaries, these organizations will be responsible for reviewing the evidence available for each case; and, for determining whether or not there are sufficient elements to pursue ADRVs or, whether further investigations are required.  As is a requirement of the Code, WADA will monitor the Results Management that will be carried out by the relevant authorities.”

As McLaren explained: “It’s up to different parties, like the IOC and the federations [32 of which have reports] for them to make their decisions. They can rely on what’s in the reports and what’s on the website.”

While the IOC did not have an official statement on its website a few hours after the report was published on Friday, the International Paralympic Committee immediately responded with a press release, stating, “The full findings of the report are unprecedented and astonishing. They strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport. … We wholeheartedly agree with Professor McLaren that the best course of action is to work together to fix the broken and compromised anti-doping system in Russia.”

The IPC explained that it recently appointed a taskforce to work “closely” with the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) “to do just that.”

The IPC suspended the RPC in early August “due to its inability to fulfil its IPC membership obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is a signatory) and the IPC Anti-Doping Code.”

The International Ski Federation (FIS) relayed its official statement in an email to FasterSkier:

“FIS will study the details in the WADA McLaren Report in the coming days and thereafter act decisively, in accordance with the FIS policy of zero tolerance to punish anti-doping violations and the protection of clean athletes. Additionally FIS will coordinate with the IOC, as the responsible body for anti-doping at the Olympic Winter Games, and WADA, in order to address each organisation’s next steps.”

Also in the email, FIS Communications Manager Jenny Wiedeke noted, “Unfortunately, we cannot answer specific questions until we have had a chance to completely review all of the details of the report.”

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) president Anders Besseberg went on the record saying, “First of all you need proof that the Russian Biathlon Union was involved in this thing,” he told Sportschau.de. “Or was it something that went over the head of our federation member — at a state level so to speak, then it is a difficult question.

“But in my opinion that is the key question: if the Russian Biathlon Union was involved,” he continued.

— Alex Kochon and Harald Zimmer contributed

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Jason Albert

Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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