KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Russia’s track and field athletes cannot logically be permitted by the IAAF tomorrow to compete at the Olympic Games after the most depressing report from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
If the 27-member ruling council of the world athletics federation and its leader Lord Sebastian Coe – and later the International Olympic Committee and its president Thomas Bach – say ‘Yes’ to Russia then they will have irredeemably undermined whatever credibiliy and integrity elite world sport retains after the last scandal-scarred years.
Last year a devastating television documentary by German channel ARD/WDR and reporter Hajo Seppelt laid bare how a state-supported doping programme and associated cover-up measures operated within Russian athletics. An independent inquiry set up by WADA under Dick Pound vindicated Seppelt and his Russian athlete whistle-blowers.
Simultaneously the former president of the IAAF, Senegal’s Lamine Diack, was subjected to a criminal investigation by French prosecutors over allegations of financially profitable acquiescence. Son Papa Massata Diack, who had been an IAAF marketing consultant, and two other senior officials, have been kicked out of the sport.
But that did not sort the Russian problem. Russia was suspended and measures put in place to try to clean up the doping control system.
The Russians have talked positively of a change of culture and denigrated the whistleblowers in their desperation to avoid the embarrassment of the country being considered an Olympic pariah.
But the latest WADA report is damning. In effect, it says the cheating goes on, based on evidence that:
* 73 of 455 tests on athletes could not be collected;
* 736 tests were declined or cancelled;
* 23 athletes (“a significant number”) simply missed tests;
* 52 adverse findings were made.
* two cyclists had not been seen at their whereabouts venues for more than a year
Athletes from several sports, not only track and field, went to incriminating lengths to avoid tests and try to mislead doping control officers (DCOs).
One ran away from the mixed zone after an event while a second left the stadium in the middle of a race and could not be traced.
Yet another athlete used a container inserted inside her “presumably containing clean urine”. When she tried to use the container it leaked onto the floor. The athlete tried to bribe the DCO before providing a sample that subsequently returned an adverse finding.
Independent testing officials were intimidated when accessing military cities and threaten with expulsion by armed federal security agents;
WADA-accredited laboratories reporting sample transportation packages having been opened by Russian customs, suggesting interference by officials;
National championships for Olympic sports including Olympic qualifiers held in cities with restricted access due to ongoing civil conflicts resulting in service providers declining test requests;
Tests could not be carried out at the national weightlifting and national Greco-Roman wrestling championships;
DCOs were not told which city or venue was hosting a particular competition.
On top of all this, at least 55 Russian competitors from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games are suspected of doping offences after the retesting with new analysis methods of samples taken in Beijing and London.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isibayeva have talked of raising a complaint in the international and sporting courts unless Russia is given a free pass to the Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Also, Russia has announced a raft of reforms including the introduction of compulsory anti-doping classes in schools to reform attitudes toward the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Only yesterday the athletes’ commission of the European Olympic Committees demanded what appeared to be a specialist testing system which would allow individual ‘clean’ athletes to compete in Rio.
Not all athletes are feeling so generous – or confident that the IOC and WADA have their best interests at heart.
The bodies have been accused of “shattering the confidence” of athletes across the globe because of their failure to do enough to tackle Russian doping. A no-punches letter was sent last month to both Bach and WADA president Sir Craig Reedie by the chairs of the athletes commissions of both the IOC and WADA, Claudia Bokel and Beckie Scott.
They warn that “tried and tested procedures and safeguards have been proved inadequate” and urges them to do more to “fully discover the truth” about cheating in sport.
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