The sport of track and field experienced one of its darkest days on Monday following a World Anti-Doping Agency report of a widespread systematic doping program—and cover-up—by the All-Russian Athletics Federation.
Dick Pound, the former WADA president who led the independent investigation, presented the findings at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He recommended that Russia be suspended from global athletics competition—including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio—and recommended lifetime bans for five Russian athletes—including 2012 Olympic 800m champion Mariya Savinova (pictured above), 2012 Olympic 800m bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova, 400m/800m runner Anastasia Bazdyreva and 1500m runner Kristina Ugarova—along with five coaches and administrators. Pound, who said the doping problem was “worse than we thought,” also recommended that Russia’s Moscow-based anti-doping lab should be shut down. Gregory Rodchenko, who headed the lab, was one of those administrators recommended for a lifetime ban and accused of intentionally destroying 1,417 doping samples in December of last year.
The 11-month investigation, which was commissioned following German broadcaster ARD’s documentary “The Secrets of Doping: How Russia Makes Its Winners?” yielded a 335-page report, revealed “payments of money to conceal doping tests” and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels.” The investigation cited a state-sponsored doping program but also stated that the problem extended beyond just Russia and the sport of track and field.
Monday’s report comes on the heels of last week’s arrest of former IAAF president Lamine Diack on charges of corruption and money laundering. The 82-year-old from Senegal is charged with taking at least 200,000 euros from Russia to cover up positive doping tests, amongst other legal and ethical violations.
“While the contents of the Report are deeply disturbing, the investigation is hugely positive for the clean athlete as it contains significant recommendations for how WADA and its partners in the anti-doping community can, and must, take swift corrective action to ensure anti-doping programs of the highest order are in place across the board,” said Sir Craig Reedie, WADA president. “WADA is fully committed in its role of leading the charge to protect the rights of clean athletes worldwide.”
In a question and answer session following the presentation, Pound—who reiterated that his commission had a “very narrow mandate on Russia and athletics”—said he believed that the findings in this report were just “the tip of the iceberg” and alluded to problems in other countries, including Kenya, which has been under scrutiny in recent months for a litany of failed doping tests and virtually non-existent out-of-competition drug testing program.
“It seems pretty clear from both the ARD program and subsequent developments that Kenya has a real problem,” Pound said in response to a journalist’s question. “It has been very slow to acknowledge there is a problem. There is apparently some investigation going on as we speak. If they don’t do a good job then someone else will do a job for them.”
The IAAF released a statement from president Sebastian Coe soon after the press conference saying, “The information in WADA’s Independent Commissions Report is alarming. We need time to properly digest and understand the detailed findings included in the report. However, I have urged the Council to start the process of considering sanctions against ARAF. This step has not been taken lightly. Our athletes, partners and fans have my total assurance that where there are failures in our governance or our anti-doping programmes we will fix them. We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport. The IAAF will continue to offer the police authorities our full co-operation into their ongoing investigation.”
The U.S. Anti-Doping Association also commented on WADA’s report, applauding them for exposing Russia’s widespread cheating and subsequent suggestion that their athletes be banned from international competition.
“The world’s athletes deserve better, and all who love clean sport must rise up and confront this threat,” said USADA president Travis Tygart. “We will continue to fight on behalf of all clean athletes to ensure that clear and decisive action is taken to sweep out anyone who has been involved with this scheme.”