UKAD reportedly reconsidering Russian doping deal as backlash deepens
A backlash is growing against Russia today following the latest wave of allegations of widespread doping surrounding the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
This comes after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s discredited laboratory in Moscow, claimed in The New York Times a doping system in place throughout the Winter Olympic Games was so effective it ran like a “Swiss Watch”.
This included the development of a “three-drug cocktail” of banned steroids which were mixed with alcohol and given to Russian athletes, he claims, as well as a covert system to replace the urine of affected medal winners with clean samples using soda containers and baby bottles.
As many as 15 medal winners could have been helped this way, it is alleged, including bobsleigher Alexander Zubkov, who won two golds, gold and silver medal winning cross-country skier Alexander Legkov and skeleton champion Alexander Tretiakov.
Athletes from across the world have admitted their shock at the latest claims amid calls for urgent action to be taken, while the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) is considering whether to continue its work assisting Russia clean up its doping problems.
UKAD, who accepted a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) request to help oversee Russia’s drug testing programme following the suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), are understood to be frustrated about the lack of cooperation they are receiving.
In some cases, they are reportedly being asked to give 30 days’ notice, rubbishing the principle of a surprise test, the Daily Telegraph claims, while there have been delays over sending blood samples to laboratories and disputes over payments from Russian authorities to UKAD contractors.
There have also been problems accessing certain parts of the country, although any talk of an immediate withdrawal of their presence appears premature.
“The UKAD Board has discussed at length WADA’s request to engage with Russia, and decided that undertaking testing in Russia, during RUSADA’s period of non-compliance, was the correct thing to do in order to protect clean athletes,” a spokesperson said.
“The Board discussed the risks associated with such an arrangement and those risks, and others, are regularly reviewed by the Board, in addition to the progress being made.
“As with any agreement, termination is always a possibility if the circumstances change.
“At no stage has the UKAD Board proposed withdrawing from this agreement.”
If confirmed, this would be a major blow and a further indicator that Russia is not making the improvement required in order to lift a ban on the country’s athletics team installed last year following similar allegations of state sponsored doping.
Athletes to have registered their discontent include Canadian ice hockey legend and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission member Hayley Wickenheiser.
She called the allegations – which include the Russian ice hockey team – “extremely disturbing but not surprising”.
“Hockey is not typically a sport with a history of rampant doping,” she said.
“This all needs to be fully investigated, and we need to stand by those protecting clean athletes.
“It reads like a bad spy novel.”
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES), which oversees the drug testing of many Olympic athletes in Canada, called for the IOC and International Association of Athletics Federations to “exercise real leadership” and maintain the ban on Russian athletes at Rio 2016.
Steven Holcomb, the American bobsledder who claimed two bronze medals behind Zubkov in Sochi, called for the anti-doping process to be re-examined.
“What I see most is I would love to have my medals upgraded – but I’m more concerned about the process,” he said.
“The fact that the guy who won double gold is now being labeled as one of the guys who potentially cheated, that’s what hurt the most.
“I missed out on an opportunity because of that.
“And the process didn’t work – I went to the Olympic Games relying on WADA to do what they do, and they failed.”
Andrea Berlinger Schwyter, the chief executive of Berlinger, the company responsible for developing bottles used to hold urine samples, offered to provide any assistance required.
“We clearly state that according to our current knowledge our kits are secure if used according to our users instructions,” Schwyter said.
“The kits meet highest product standards and are checked several times before they leave our house.
“The security system is tested and certified by a neutral, independent laboratory and is specially adopted to the general doping control procedures.
“If the statement of Grigory Rodchenkov is correct, the published case shows a professional, from long hand planned, Russian Secret Service involving, criminal act which has implications not only on the security bottles however affects the entire chain of custody and the related operations.
“This case is an exceptional situation and as such this needs to be classified – of course, Berlinger Special AG will provide assistance to support to clarify this case where ever needed.”
Russia disputes all the allegations, however, with deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh having vowed to take legal action against Rodchenkov.
“He may be dissatisfied with his current position or have unrealised creative ambitions,” Nagornykh told the TASS news agency.
“It may also be the season, which affects people.
“We can only guess about the reasons behind Rodchenkov’s statements.”
Athletes implicated – including Zubkov and Legkov – have also denied all allegations and vowed to pursue legal action.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz