The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has said it is looking into the latest allegations surrounding Russian sport after a whistleblower who uncovered systemic doping inside the country’s athletics team disclosed that at least four gold medallists at the 2014 winter Olympic Games were using steroids.
Vitaly Stepanov, who previously worked for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) and is now living in the United States, told 60 Minutes, an investigative programme broadcast by US network CBS, that former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre Grigory Rodchenkov informed him in over 15 hours of taped conversations he had evidence of a 2014 Games testing cover-up, which included the use of Russian intelligence agents.
In an interview broadcast yesterday (Sunday), Stepanov said Rodchenkov told him “that FSB agents worked as doping controls officers during the Sochi Games, that FSB tried to control every single step of the anti-doping process in Sochi.” FSB refers to Russia’s Federal Security Service.
CBS said it had listened to all 15 hours of tape and that at one point, Rodchenkov told Stepanov he was in possession of what he called “the Sochi list” of four Russian gold medal winners who were doping. Wada spokesman Ben Nichols said the allegations about use of Russian intelligence in a doping cover-up and those surrounding the four Sochi 2014 gold medallists were “very disturbing”.
Nichols told the Reuters news agency: “Wada has watched the CBS 60 Minutes program, which revealed new and very disturbing allegations regarding Russian doping in sport. We will look into these without delay.”
Russia remains banned from international athletics following the Wada Independent Commission report, which in November detailed evidence of state-sponsored doping and corruption in Russian sport. Ahead of the broadcast of the CBS documentary on Sunday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko fired back at the latest allegations from Stepanov, labelling them nothing more than speculation.
Mutko told Russian news agency Tass: “Stepanov is riding his hobby-horse again. He will endlessly talk about doping in Russian sports. This was in the first film (German broadcaster ARD’s documentary) and appeared in later films. All his so-called revelations are based on speculations and are being actively distributed.”
He added: “I don’t know why we should endlessly refute Stepanov’s (claims). We will see if there are any legal risks for us, we will think about defence. It’s not the first time.”
In other news, Wada president Craig Reedie has called for the agency’s resources to be boosted through a levy on broadcast rights deals and diverting sponsorship revenue from athletes caught cheating.
The recent doping scandals in a range of sports have led to efforts by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to push through changes that would make anti-doping programmes independent of all Olympic sports. The IOC has called for an independent testing and results management entity under the leadership of Wada, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) handed the responsibility of imposing sanctions on those who fail tests.
Wada currently has an annual budget of $30m (€26.1m), which is provided equally by the IOC and national governments. Writing in UK newspaper The Guardian, Reedie said: “To impose, for example, a 0.5 per cent tariff on this $35bn annual media rights figure would instantly put $175m more in the anti-doping coffers, increasing Wada’s budget five-fold. With such extra funds we could make a greater impact in protecting the rights of the clean athletes and in turn uphold the integrity of sport.”
He added: “Sponsorship is also an enormous contributor to the sport industry. Major sports sponsors should start to look at how they might support clean sport. Take pharmaceutical companies, for example, with whom the anti-doping movement has strong relations. While anti-doping has an interest in protecting the rights of the clean athlete, the pharmaceutical industry has a significant stake in ensuring that its products are being used for legitimate medical reasons, not abused by athletes seeking an edge.”