Russia Allegedly Covered Up 643 Positive Athlete Drug Tests

An independent investigator alleges a national conspiracy of cheating of almost unprecedented scale among the Russian Olympic team

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Jul 18, 2016 at 11:02 AM ET

The World Anti Doping Agency-commissioned McLaren Report that was released Monday condemned the Russian Ministry of Sport for organizing and implementing a systemic doping scheme with the collaboration of laboratories in Moscow and at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Though Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor and sports arbitrator appointed as independent investigator, stressed that he was charged only with fact-finding and not with making recommendations, the implication of a rich a widespread cheating program—which includes the charge of Russia covering up 643 positive drug tests—has prompted calls from antidoping officials that Russia be banned from next month’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories,” the report noted, referring to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB by its Russian acronym) and Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia.

WADA initiated this report after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Sochi’s antidoping lab, told the New York Times in May about an elaborate test-swapping scheme at the Winter Olympics two years ago, in which samples were passed through a “mouse hole” in the lab to an FSB officer who would swap in clean urine from a previous time. McLaren deemed Rodchenkov to be “credible and truthful” and said his allegations could be verified through forensic laboratory analysis. Based on its independent examination, the report concluded “without any doubt whatsoever” that the tamper-evident bottle caps could indeed “be removed without any evidence visible to the untrained eye.”

The genesis of this purported doping program came in 2010 under a new deputy minister of sport, Yuri Nagornykh, who was also a member of the Russian Olympic Committee. Russian athletes had earned only 15 medals at the 2010 Games including just three golds—its fewest since the breakup of the Soviet Union. McLaren accuses Nagornykh of coordinating the Disappearing Positive Methodology and deciding “who would benefit from a cover up and who would not be protected” among the nation’s athletes. (Nagornykh denied cheating allegations to the New York Times last spring.)

While initially only Russia’s track and field team had been implicated, McLaren’s report noted that “the vast majority of summer and winter Olympic sports” were included in the doping program.

“The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games,” the report said.

Even before Monday’s public disclosure of the report, several national antidoping agencies—such as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport—had indicated that such a corroboration should lead to a full ban of all Russian athletes. The final decision on such a matter rests with the International Olympic Committee.