IOC vows 'toughest sanctions' after report confirms Moscow's collusion in doping
The International Olympic Committee has promised "the toughest sanctions available" after a report confirmed Moscow had concealed the positive doping tests of athletes in many sports in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games.
The IOC did not spell out whether it would heed growing calls for Olympic bans already imposed on Russia's track and field athletes and weightlifters to be extended to all its competitors in Rio.
But IOC president Thomas Bach said the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) investigation results revealed on Monday [Tuesday NZT] were "a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games".
"Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated."
Wada itself explicitly urged the IOC to consider banning Russia from the Rio Olympics altogether and a coalition of countries calling for the ban was being formed. Drug Free Sport New Zealand was part of the coalition and its chief executive, Graeme Steel, on Tuesday confirmed that position.
"To find out that Russian athletes have systematically cheated and been supported by those accountable for ensuring they are competing clean is a massive betrayal," Steel said.
"To ban Russia from the Rio Games would be an unprecedented step, but there is no appropriate alternative response to the conclusions in the report."
WHAT WADA CONFIRMED
The Wada-backed report confirmed allegations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times that dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.
It said the catalyst for the development of a system to conceal widespread doping had been Russia's performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, where a country that cherishes its status as a sporting superpower finished 11th, with only three gold medals.
"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," said the report, unveiled in Toronto.
The report was led by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren, who had sat on the independent commission that last year exposed widespread doping and corruption in Russian track and field, leading to its exclusion from international competition.
He said Russia's Sports Ministry had overseen the manipulation of athletes' analytical results for years before Sochi.
"The State implemented a simple failsafe strategy," the report said.
"If all the operational precautions to promote and permit doping by Russian athletes proved to have been ineffective for whatever reason, the laboratory provided a failsafe mechanism.
"The State had the ability to transform a positive analytical result into a negative one by ordering that the analytical process of the Moscow Laboratory be altered."
In Sochi itself, where international observers were scrutinising the drug tests, positive results could not simply be brushed away, so a system of sample-swapping was put in place with the help of the FSB intelligence service, the report said.
Rodchenkov had spoken of a clandestine night-time operation in which he said staff secretly took urine samples from the lab via a "mouse hole" cut into a wall, and replaced them with clean samples taken from the same athlete months earlier and sometimes manipulated.
McLaren said Rodchenkov and all other witnesses interviewed had been deemed credible, and the report said the investigators "confirm the general veracity of the published information concerning the sample swapping that went on at the Sochi Laboratory during the Sochi Games".
The investigations showed that caps had been removed from a number of samples, and that they contained unusually high levels of salt, "significantly exceeding the levels produced by the human body".
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was mentioned 21 times in McLaren's 97-page report, was not immediately available for comment.
In a leaked draft letter intended to be sent to the IOC on Monday, US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief executive Travis Tygart calls for a ban on all Russian athletes, not only in track and field.
Paul Melia, head of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, said the letter was backed by various athletes' committees and the anti-doping organisations of the United States, Germany, Japan and New Zealand, among others.
However, Russian track and field athletes have appealed against their ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is due to rule by Thursday.
If it finds in their favour, there would seem to be little chance of a wider ban on Russian competitors holding up.
Bach had indicated last week that he was reluctant to see athletes from one sport punished for the crimes of athletes or officials from another.
Russian President Vladimir Putin staked his reputation on the Sochi Games, which at around US$50 billion (NZ$70b) were the most expensive in Olympic history. Russia topped the table with 33 medals, 13 of them gold.
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