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Russian doping scandal: Russia’s Rio hopes hang in the balance

AP Photo/ David J. Phillip
AP Photo/ David J. Phillip
AP Photo/ David J. Phillip

The IOC has vowed to take the “toughest sanctions available” against those implicated in the Russian Doping scandal, with the decision on Russian involvement in the Rio Olympics to be made this week. These claims have come to light after a WADA report found the “vast majority” of urine samples were doctored and intentionally altered by Russian authorities from late 2011 to 2015.  It is understood that findings have proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that concealed doping had taken place, with full consent and support of the FSB, the Russian Ministry of Sport and the CSP, the Russian Centre of Sports Preparation.

The damning WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) report triggered by Russian 800m runner, Yuliya Stepanova, has exposed a systematic and calculated state sponsorship of the doping of up to 577 athletes over a four year period. The accusations centre around a cocktail of concealable drugs, nicknamed “Duchess”, administered via an alcoholic mouthwash. Urine samples marked positive for these steroids were reported to Russian Deputy Minister Mutko, who personally decided whether to “save” the sample, allowing the athlete to continue competing. Those athletes viewed as unpromising had their samples “quarantined” and reported to the WADA management system, as a means of further masking the process. Richard McLaren, the chief investigator for the report, referred to this as the “Disappearing Positive methodology”. Evidence has gone as far as to show that the FSB had tampered with urine samples through a “mouse-hole” drilled into an anti-doping laboratory wall, while disguised as maintenance workers.

The report claims the plan was triggered by “very abysmal” displays in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. McLaren believed he had “only skimmed the surface” and that “every positive sample was sent up the chain of command”, opening the door for further investigation. Vladimir Putin has commented on the report by offering to suspend officials named. He also described former lab director-turned whistle blower, Grigori Rodchenkov, as a man with a “scandalous reputation”. It is believed Rodchenkov aided in the formation and personal application of the “Duchess” steroid cocktail.

In terms of future sporting prospects in Russia, the BBC’s Dan Roan described this report as a “watershed moment” and the “gravest crisis in the history of the IOC”. The situation is further complicated by the IOC president, Thomas Bach’s, friendly relationship with Putin. However, he has noted the findings as “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of Sport” and is expected to make “provisional measures and sanctions” in the coming week.

While the decision to ban the entire Russian team from Rio was one Bach wished to avoid, many observers believe the report is far worse than expected and international pressure has intensified on the IOC to make a strong statement in response to blatant defiance of Olympic rules and sporting conduct.