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Rodchenkov slams CAS ruling on Russian athletes, criticises IOC

Grigory Rodchenkov, the key whistleblower behind the uncovering of Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, has labelled the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) overturning of bans handed out to Russian athletes as “unacceptable” and has also criticised the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) handling of the process.

Evidence from Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory that oversaw drug testing at the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi, detailed the complicated urine-swapping system in place at Russia’s Games and ultimately led to the IOC only allowing 168 Russian athletes to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 under the ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ banner.

However, doubts over his evidence were raised following the CAS verdict on February 1. The Court overturned lifetime bans imposed on 28 Russian athletes by the IOC, along with partially upholding the appeals of a further 11 athletes, citing “insufficient” evidence for the sanctions.

Following the investigation performed by Professor Richard McLaren regarding the manipulation of anti-doping procedures during Sochi 2014, the IOC found 43 Russian athletes to have committed anti-doping rule violations during the Games, disqualifying them from the events in which they participated in Sochi and forfeiting all medals won by them.

The athletes were also declared ineligible to participate in any capacity in all subsequent editions of the Olympic Games. At the end of December, all but one of the athletes, bobsledder Maxim Belugin, filed an appeal at the CAS.

Hearings were then held in Geneva from January 22-27, with testimony being taken from key witnesses such as McLaren and Rodchenkov. With respect to the 28 athletes, their appeals were upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 reinstated. 

In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual anti-doping rule violation. The IOC decisions in the matters were confirmed, with one exception – the athletes were declared ineligible for Pyeongchang 2018 instead of receiving a life ban from all Olympic Games.

“The CAS decision for the 39 athletes was unacceptable,” Rodchenkov told the Associated Press news agency today (Friday). “The standard for evidence was too high. And CAS should have considered all the evidence Russia withheld from the IOC and Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency), which would only further confirm their guilt. This process sends a clear message to clean athletes, who also deserved due process: we don't care about you.”

McLaren had verified Rodchenkov’s claims of athletes using a cocktail of steroids dubbed the ‘Duchess’, with those on the list having their urine samples swapped out for clean ones. “Russian athletes were absolutely aware of doping program and followed the strict orders from their authorities,” Rodchenkov said. He claimed that “none of the protected athletes are innocent.”

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko – who was Sports Minister when the Sochi Games took place – was subsequently banned from participating at future editions of the Olympics by the IOC. He has since claimed Rodchenkov’s evidence “fell apart immediately” under cross-examination at CAS.

“Mutko's comment is irrelevant and untrue,” Rodchenkov said. “I gave consistent evidence. My diary told the tale, and so did the documents I produced. The full picture of all moving parts and all high-level individuals was tracked — how the scheme was organised and structured. The IOC shouldn't have rushed the appeal, and should have put the LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) database into evidence, as I am sure some of the athletes had dirty results saved.”

In other news, Wada has suspended the accreditation of the Bucharest laboratory in Romania for a period of six months. It is the latest such move by the body, which is responsible for accrediting and re-accrediting anti-doping laboratories, thereby ensuring that they maintain the highest standards.

Wada said the suspension was imposed due to a number of non-conformities with the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL), which on November 29, resulted in the laboratory being provisionally suspended. 

The suspension, which is backdated from the point of the provisional suspension, prohibits the Bucharest laboratory from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.