WADA leading calls for Russian omission from 2016 Olympics

WADA leading calls for Russian omission from 2016 Olympics

The World Anti-Doping Agency is leading calls for Russia to be banned from the Rio Games after a devastating report uncovered the extent of Russia's drug-related cheating.

Anti-doping experts and athletes' groups joined that chorus as the world digested Canadian law professor Richard McLaren's 103-page report.

It revealed the Russian Sports Ministry controlled a cynical scheme to make a mockery of international anti-doping rules and effectively sabotage fair competition at several major events, including London 2012 and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

WADA's executive committee has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) "to consider, under their respective charters, to decline entries for Rio 2016 of all athletes" submitted by the Russian authorities.

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie reacted to McLaren's findings with horror, such is the scale of a doping conspiracy that helped Russian athletes from more than 30 sports dope with impunity for years.

"As the international agency responsible for leading the collaborative, global, clean sport movement, WADA is calling on the sports movement to impose the strongest possible measures to protect clean sport for Rio 2016 and beyond," said Reedie, who is also an IOC vice-president.

Angry athletes added their voices to the calls to keep Rio Russia-free, with former Olympic cross-country skiing champion Beckie Scott, the chair of WADA's athletes commission saying the report was "deeply shocking".

"We fully support the recommendations put forward today by WADA and sincerely hope that technicalities are not used to circumvent these appropriate sanctions," added Scott.

"We would like to highlight our belief that WADA must allow Professor McLaren and his team to continue their investigation, that Russia should be banned from the Rio Olympics, Paralympics, and other international events, and that international federations must enact sanctions so as to protect clean sport."

Former German fencer and chair of the IOC's athletes commission Claudia Bokel echoed these sentiments.

Scott's reference to "technicalities" not being allowed to "circumvent appropriate sanctions" was surely aimed at IOC president Thomas Bach, who has previously been reluctant to discuss collective punishments for Russia.

He also issued a statement on Monday to say he wants to carefully study the report but he has called for an urgent meeting of his executive board on Tuesday.

"The IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated," Bach added.

Sir Philip Craven, Bach's counterpart at the IPC, said: "The findings of the McLaren report mark a very dark day for sport."

Even before the report was published, several anti-doping agencies had lined up to demand that Russia be banned from Rio, pointing out that the IOC and IPC have the power to do so.

With the Russian Olympic Committee already appealing against an earlier decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations to uphold November's ban on Russia's track and field team, it is likely the IOC and IPC will wait until the Court of Arbitration for Sport has made its ruling later this week.

But any hopes the Russian authorities have of winning that appeal have surely disappeared in much the same way positive samples vanished at the anti-doping laboratories in Moscow and Sochi.

WADA's executive committee made six other recommendations apart from the request to withdraw the invitations to compete in Rio.

They include banning Russian government officials from international sports events, maintaining the suspensions of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory and Russian anti-doping agency, and asking the international federations of the sports mentioned in McLaren's report to consider following the IAAF lead by banning their Russian member associations.

It has also called on football's governing body FIFA to investigate Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko's involvement in the doping scam, as Mutko is also the president of the Russian FA, a member of FIFA's council and the chairman of the organising committee for the 2018 World Cup.

His deputy Yuri Nagornykh, appointed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2010, is described by McLaren as the doping programme's main decision-maker but the report also implicates Mutko's closest advisor Natalia Zhelanova, saying it was "inconceivable" that Mutko was unaware of what was going on and even says he intervened to cover up a foreign footballer's positive test.

WADA's final recommendation outlines just how bad Russia's cheating has been in that it calls for McLaren and his team of investigators to be given more time to complete their work: what he has found already is based on just 57 "intense" days.

McLaren, who also worked on last year's WADA-funded commission that looked into doping in Russian athletics, was asked to build on that investigation after the New York Times printed an interview in May with the former director of the Moscow lab, Grigory Rodchenkov.

Now in hiding in the United States, Rodchenkov said Russia's poor performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics and difficulties in circumventing improved anti-doping methods had effectively persuaded the Russian government to double down on what had already been widespread cheating.

Rodchenkov said, under direct control from the Russian Sports Ministry, he worked out a new cocktail of steroids to give athletes and established a system to cover up positive samples.

This operation, which McLaren refers to in his report as the "disappearing positive methodology", worked in the build-up to London 2012, the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013, World Swimming Championships in Kazan in 2015 and other major events.

Rodchenkov, who fled Russia following his sacking in November, was interviewed by McLaren via Skype, to protect his safety, and supplied him with hundreds of documents and electronic messages to corroborate his claims.

McLaren also received help from other anonymous witnesses and used cyber and forensic analysis to give what he called "unswerving confidence" that his findings were "beyond reasonable doubt".

But the most shocking of Rodchenkov's claims related to Russia taking advantage of its host status at the Winter Olympics by devising a plan to allow its athletes to dope under the noses of international observers.

Russia's secret service, the FSB, had worked out how to open and reseal the supposedly tamper-proof bottles in which urine samples are stored - McLaren said this was the "fundamental building block" of the "sample swapping methodology" that allowed Russia to win a record 33 medals in Sochi.

The rest of the plan involved smuggling Russian samples out of the Sochi laboratory through a hole in the wall, an FSB agent taking the caps of the bottles off and Rodchenkov refilling them with urine supplied by the athletes when they knew they were clean.

McLaren was able to corroborate this by sending a selection of stored samples to a laboratory in London, where an expert was able to detect scratch marks around the necks of the bottles.

The report is full of such details, painting a picture of a sporting culture unable or unwilling to believe athletes can compete clean, and officials completely shameless in their lip service to agreed anti-doping rules.

Putin issued a statement via the official news agency TASS mixing acceptance, defiance and denial, claiming the report is based on "the testimony of one man with a scandalous reputation" and questioned whether McLaren's findings can be "trustworthy".

He also suggested sport is returning to the Cold War era of "political interference" and hinted a 1980s-style boycott cannot be ruled out.

But he did say the officials named in the report would be provisionally suspended pending a Russian investigation into the report's findings.

That sounds ominous for several senior figures within Russian sport, the secret service and Russian Sports Ministry - but the world's biggest country now knows it has been exposed as a very bad sport and radical changes are required if it is to be allowed to compete at major events, let alone continue to host them.

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