PtG Comment 29.11.2017

The IOC has only one option

The IOC is struggling with the decision on Russia. With all the information we have now, they have just one option: suspension of Russia.

Insiders and outsiders to the so-called Olympic Family are positioning themselves before the IOC have to take a decision on Russia, 5 December 2017:

The IOC suspends Russian athletes daily and is at the same time buying time by refusing to comment on the accusations of state controlled doping in Russia. The Russian whistleblower and former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, is publishing his dairy in the New York Times to secure that the IOC cannot say that they didn’t know about Russian officials organising doping programs. Russian officials attack their attackers and call the accusations against Russia a Western campaign against Russia, and further puts all the blame on Grigory Rodchenkov.

Further, different sports federations with leaders with great admiration for or probably fear of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, like the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), protest against a collective punishment of Russia at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February next year.

It looks messy, but in my opinion, the IOC has only one option: to suspend Russia from the Olympics until it has cleaned up its doping.

The release on 27 November of the 46 pages Decision of the IOC Disciplinary Commission (the Oswald Commission) on the Russian cross-country skier Aleksander Legkov is damning, straightforward and shown us a new side of the IOC concerning Russia. And it would be very strange if the IOC didn’t follow up on the information provided to them in this document.

Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer whose two reports on Russian doping paved the way for two separate IOC commissions (The Oswald and Schmid Commissions) to investigate the extent of doping in Russian sports, told the audience at Play the Game in Eindhoven that he had found no direct evidence that the inner circles of Kreml had ordered the Russian doping programme before the Sochi Olympics and therefore refused to call what he found ‘state backed’ doping. He sticks to the term institutionalised doping.

That’s probably a correct legal term for what he found in his investigation and could be a way to lure the Russians to admit some wrongdoings. So far, the Russians have refused all accusations of doping during the Sochi Olympics.

However, the Decision of the IOC Disciplinary Commission produced by the IOC members Denis Oswald, Juan Antonio Samaranch and Patrick Baumann leaves no doubt that the Russian state apparatus was involved in a massive doping scheme during the Sochi Olympics, a decision very much repeating what McLaren wrote in his reports.

Based on the two McLaren reports and further interviews with 28 Russian athletes, the IOC has so far sanctioned 22 Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics. Until the Decision of the IOC Disciplinary Commission on Aleksander Legkov, the IOC was very reluctant to put any blame on the Russian state and also was very cautious when they were asked about proper sanctions of Russia. The IOC has so far also not commented on the credibility of the information provided by the Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, the main source in the McLaren reports.

The Legkov decision is therefore a game changer for the IOC.

This is how the report describe what happened before and during the Sochi Olympics:

Regarding the Moscow Laboratory, it was found that:

(i) the Moscow Laboratory operated under State oversight and control of its anti-doping operational system,

(ii) the Moscow Laboratory personnel were required to be part of the State directed system that enabled Russian athletes to compete while engaging in the use of doping substances,

(iii) the Moscow Laboratory was the final failsafe protective shield in the State directed doping regime,

(iv) sample bottles stored in the Moscow Laboratory from 10 September to 10 December 2014 were tampered with by having their urine swapped,

(v) the ‘disappearing positive [test] methodology’ (DPM) was planned and operated over a period from at least late 2011 until August 2015, and

(vi) Russian athletes from the vast majority of summer and winter Olympic sports benefited from the DPM.

With respect to Sochi Laboratory, it was found that:

(i) the planning for the Sochi Laboratory sample swapping scheme involved the Ministry of Sport, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Centre of Sports Preparation in Russia (CSP) and the Moscow Laboratory,

(ii) a pre-selected group of Russian athletes competing at Sochi were protected by the Sochi sample swapping methodology,

The information provided specifically on Aleksander Legkov leaves the athlete with zero credibility and they directly accuse him of being perfectly aware of what was going on in the anti-doping laboratory.

This is what is said about Legkov in particular:

“First, the Athlete is one of the athletes listed in the Duchess List (ed.: the list of 37 protected athletes, named after the performance enhancing cocktail made for them by Rodchenkov). For reasons explained above, the Diciplinary Commission draws a decisive inference from this element alone.

In the case of the athlete, there are however further elements which strongly corroborate the above findings.

Two sample bottles of the Athlete bore conclusive multiple T Marks.

The evidence showing that his samples were effectively manipulated constitutes objective direct evidence that the Athlete was implicated in the scheme.

Further, Athlete Legkov is one the athletes with regards to whom Dr. Rodchenkov provides additional specific evidence. In this respect, the Diciplinary Commission notes once again that Dr. Rodcheknov was very precise in the indications he gave with regards to specific athletes.

He has consistently made a clear distinction between the cases in which he did have specific recollections and cases in which he was only describing the implication of the athlete being a Duchess List athlete, or even cases in which he could not provide any information. This precision is one of the elements that contributed to the Disciplinary Commission’s conclusion that Dr Rodchenkov is a credible witness.

This lends weight to the specific evidence that Dr Rodchenkov provided in relation to the Athlete, which is the following:

Dr Rodchenkov confirmed that he checked urine known to be from the Athlete for clean urine and wash-out purposes. This is consistent with what would be expected in the case of an athlete on the Duchess List.

Dr Rodchenkov also referred to conversations in which the positive response of the Athlete to Duchess Coctail was mentioned. Together with references to other conversations, this corroborates another aspect linked with the Duchess List: the fact that the Athlete was offered and did use the Duchess Coctail.

Dr Rodchenkov specifically recollects the swapping of the samples collected from the Athlete during the night following his victorious run in the in the 50-km race on 23 February 2014.

The Diciplinary Commission observes that the corresponding B-sample bottle (n2890803) is one of the bottles on which the forensic analysis conducted in Lausanne confirmed the presence of multiple T Marks.

Finally, Dr Rodchenkov referred to and provided an exchange of e-mails indicative of the fact that the Athlete would have benefitted from “Save” order.

The Disciplinary Commission observes that this element appears to be of low relevance. It concerns an occurrence outside the Olympic Games (in April 2014). Furthermore, it relates to a substance, which was no longer a Prohibited Substance.”

This is nothing else than a character murder of Aleksander Legkov.

Russian governmental officials have accused Grigory Rodchenkov of having a political motive for his whistleblowing. They also want to put all blame on Grigory Rodchenkov for the potential doping violations found in the Sochi Olympics.

Corresponding with the release of the Legkov report, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, sent out a press release on behalf of Rodchenkov and published a story on Rodchenkov’s diary in the New York Times describing in details the former Sports Minister and present Vice Premier Minister, Vitaly Mutko’s involvement in the Sochi doping programme.

Here is the statement by Jim Walden, Rodchenkov’s lawyer soon after the release of the Legkov report:

Following is a statement from Jim Walden of Walden, Macht & Haran LLP, who represents Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, an analytic chemist and former director of Moscow’s Antidoping Center:

New York, NY, November 27, 2017 — Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov has shared the truth about Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. His facts have been verified in every way imaginable. Although many details of the Russian doping program have yet to appear publicly, Dr. Rodchenkov has been fully cooperative with those who sought his assistance and evidence. Given the rampant corruption in sports, it is clear that many would prefer to keep their heads buried.

Dr. Rodchenkov’s goals are not political. Nor does he seek to do unnecessary harm to Russian athletes. He seeks only truth, reform, peace, and safety.

The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has demanded that Russia accept responsibility for its state-sponsored system. To date, Russia has refused to do so, choosing to falsely blame Dr. Rodchenkov as if he acted alone. WADA’s policies forbid retaliation against whistleblowers, yet Russia continues to ignore this fact, seeking instead to silence Dr. Rodchenkov.

The time has come for Russia to do the right thing and admit its past transgressions for the benefit of Russian sport. Russia’s continuing intransigence is the greatest yoke around the necks of Russia's athletes.

Jim Walden

Walden, Macht & Haran LLP

Lawyer for Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov

In a presentation at Play the Game 2017 in Eindhoven, the German journalist Hajo Seppelt instrumental for the McLaren reports, asked what skeletons Russia will dig out from their closets if the IOC-president Thomas Bach, a long-time friend of Vladimir Putin, collectively suspends Russia from the Olympics in Pyeongchang. It’s not hard to imagine that the Russians might have compromising information (Kompromat) on Thomas Bach and others and are willing to make this information public.

It is interesting that Juan Antonio Samaranch, the son of the former IOC president is one of the three authors of the Legkov report. His father, Samaranch senior, had close cooperation with the KGB and the successor of KGB, the FSB, will most likely have information about him that he might not want to be made public.

Hajo Seppelt made the point at the conference in Eindhoven that if IOC do not suspend Russia from the Olympics, they signal that cheating nations could do whatever they want without consequences.

The message is clear: Russia has no place in the forthcoming Olympics.