Russia should not be singled out unfairly as having a major doping problem despite several high-profile cases involving its top athletes, it was claimed by the head of the country’s athletics federation.
Last week former world and Olympic champions Svetlana Krivelyova and Olga Kuzenkova were both banned for two years each for failing drugs tests after their samples were re-examined.
Then this week, Russian cyclist Valery Kaykov became the first high-profile athlete to test positive for a black market substance that was never cleared for human use. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had warned last month about the dangers of taking GW501516, which helps athletes burn fat, claiming it had some potential serious side-affects.
They are among nearly 40 Russian athletes currently serving doping bans.
But Valentin Balakhnichev, President of the All-Russian Athletic Federation, has defended his country’s record.
“Three years ago the national anti-doping agency Rusada was created to keep the use of drugs in sports under control,” Balakhnichev told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “It changed the situation radically as the Russian Sports Ministry upgraded the technical equipment of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory up to the highest modern standards and increased the level of its staff’s skills.
“Now it is paying off, as the laboratory is not only testing but also regularly working out new methods of analysis that are currently used worldwide,” he said.
Tatyana Kotova is one of several Russian athletes banned for drugs after their samples were re-tested several years after they were originally taken
A brighter spotlight has been shone on Russia’s problems because Moscow is due to host this year’s International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships.
“In Soviet times, children’s and youth sports schools were in charge of educational work with young athletes together with the country’s youth public organizations,” Balakhnichev said. “After the fall of the Soviet Union we lost the moral standards that prevented the athletes from cheating.”
Meanwhile, the International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed that 24-year-old Kaykov has been provisionally suspended. A WADA-accredited laboratory in Cologne indicated an Adverse Analytical Finding of metabolite GW1516 sulfone—Metabolic Modulator in a urine sample collected from him in an out of competition test taken on March 17.
News of Kaykov’s positive follows a memo sent around by WADA which said “the side effect of this chemical compound is so serious that WADA is taking the rare step of warning ‘cheats’ to ensure that there is complete awareness of the possible health risks to athletes who succumb to the temptation of using GW501516 for performance enhancement.”
Much of the criticism of Russian athletes for doping has been led by British officials, including UK Athletics’ head coach Peter Eriksson, who claimed earlier this year “they need to do work within the Russian system to find out what’s going on.”
Jade Johnson, the 2002 Commonwealth Games long jump silver medalist, even went as far to claim that Moscow should be stripped of the World Championships because of the doping problem.
Johnson was upset that Tatyana Kotova, a Russian long jumper who had beaten her for the 2002 European title, was subsequently banned for doping.
Like many Russian athletes Kotova was banned following a re-test of samples taken several years earlier, in her case at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005, when she had originally finished second.
But Balakhnichev, the treasurer of the IAAF, reacted angrily at the British claims and struck back.
“I think we all should withdraw from issuing any labels,” he said. “The British coaches and athletes should better watch closely what’s going on closer to home.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors