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McLaren returns to lead Wada’s Sochi 2014 probe amid conflict of interest concerns

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has appointed Richard McLaren as an independent leader of the investigation into allegations of a doping cover-up at the 2014 winter Olympic Games following concerns over a potential conflict of interest.

McLaren is tasked with investigating the allegations made in relation to the 2014 Sochi Games, which were published by US broadcaster CBS and the New York Times newspaper earlier this month.

The Canadian law professor and sports lawyer was one of Wada’s three-person Independent Commission, which exposed widespread doping in Russian athletics last year. McLaren will work independently, and be supported by the multi-disciplinary team that has been established.

Wada president Craig Reedie said he acted swiftly to name McLaren following requests received by the former director of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov; and, whistleblower, Vitaly Stepanov. Rodchenkov and Stepanov – the informants for the investigation – both expressed concerns regarding independence, sentiments echoed by Beckie Scott, the chair of Wada’s Athlete Committee.

Rodchenkov and Stepanov indicated that, in light of a perceived conflict of interest – given that the allegations relate to the Sochi Olympics and that Wada is funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – they would only provide evidence in their possession to an independent person.

Reedie said: “As president of Wada, I felt that it was in the best interest of clean athletes that we obtain the evidence as quickly as possible. Given the sentiments expressed by many of a perceived conflict of interest, we did what’s necessary to follow through on our commitment to get to the bottom of these allegations; while, seeing that impartiality and transparency prevail.”

With the independent oversight of McLaren, the investigation team will be led by Wada’s investigations manager, Mathieu Holz. He is forming a multi-disciplinary team of experts that will include leading independent scientists such as the director of the Wada-accredited laboratory in Montreal, Professor Christiane Ayotte.

Earlier this week, the IOC said it would start re-testing samples from Sochi 2014 after allegations of tarnished samples were made last week by Rodchenkov. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has also opened an investigation into the allegations of state-sponsored doping by dozens of Russia’s top athletes.

The US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating Russian government officials, athletes, coaches and anti-doping authorities with a view to filing conspiracy and fraud conspiracy charges, according to the New York Times. Rodchenkov last week claimed that he provided dozens of Russian athletes with banned substances as part of a state-run doping programme during the Sochi winter Olympics. As many as 15 medal-winners have been implicated.

Russian prosecutors yesterday (Thursday) said they will also investigate the allegations surrounding doping at recent Olympic Games. According to spokesman Alexander Kurennoi, the Prosecutor General’s office is examining possible “doping by Russian athletes at the Olympics in Beijing, London and Sochi.”

Kurennoi, speaking to state news agency Tass, cited “information published by various media and the World Anti-Doping Agency”. However it is not clear which specific allegations will be investigated.