Monday, 13 February 2017

Putin's Russia

I said in a recent post that the Russian state's involvement in doping in world sport is clear evidence that President Putin's Government will do most anything to get its way including the carefully planned murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Just as Litvinenko's poisoning by radioactive polonium could only have been achieved with the involvement of the Russian state, at the highest level, the same is true of 'doping' at the Olympic Games and in world athletics which has been on a truly industrial scale. 

The only mystery is why these athletes are suspended for just four years when they have cheated other 'clean' competitors out of their dreams.

Mariya Savinova: Russian London 2012 gold medallist stripped of title

BBC Athletics

Mariya Savinova's Olympic title followed a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea

London 2012 gold medallist Mariya Savinova has been stripped of her 800m title and banned until 2019 after being found guilty of doping.

She has had her results from July 2010 to August 2013 annulled but has 45 days to appeal against the decision.

The Russian beat South Africa's Caster Semenya into second at the London Olympics and the 2011 Worlds in Daegu.

Savinova, 31, also beat Britain's Jenny Meadows into to bronze at the 2010 European Championships.

Both Semenya and Meadows could now have their medals upgraded.

Savinova has also lost her 800m silver from the 2013 Worlds and her four-year suspension will be backdated to 2015.

The case against Savinova was brought by the IAAF based upon her biological passport, which the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) has used to make its decision.

A Cas statement read: "On the basis of clear evidence, including the evidence derived from her biological passport (ABP), Mariya Savinova is found to have been engaged in using doping from 26 July 2010 (the eve of the European Championship in Barcelona) through to 19 August 2013 (the day after the World Championship in Moscow).

"As a consequence, a four-year period of ineligibility, beginning on 24 August 2015, has been imposed and all results achieved between 26 July 2010 and 19 August 2013, are disqualified and any prizes, medals, prize and appearance money forfeited."

The background

Savinova was one of five Russian athletes named in a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report into doping.

She has not raced since 2013 after being suspended during an investigation sparked by the release of undercover footage filmed by whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova.

Should the International Olympic Committee decide to reallocate the medals from the London 2012 final, Semenya would be awarded a second gold after she claimed the 800m title in Rio last summer.

Savinova is now the second Russian finalist from that race to have been retrospectively banned - after Yelena Arzhakova - while a third - bronze medallist Ekaterina Poistogova - is also under investigation for doping.

Yuliya Stepanova talks to the BBC for the 100 Women season about the cheating, cover-ups and life on the run.

Analysis - Richard Conway, BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent

Savinova is one of Russia's best known middle-distance athletes - she is now one of Russia's best known drugs cheats.

It means in effect Savinova loses her London 2012 gold medal and Caster Semenya will likely be promoted from silver to gold.

So while there are consequences for Savinova, the world of sporting detection is once again showing it will catch up with athletes if they have cheated even if it is some years after the event.

Putin's Russia

Image result for nothing to see here,move along + images

"Nothing to see here, move along", seems to be the response of Putin's Russian into the biggest doping scandal there's ever been.

The independent report was carried out at the request of WADA (World Anti Doping Agency)   and exposes cheating on an industrial scale - not just on the part of individual athletes and rouge coaches, but at the highest levels of the Russian state.

Read the following report from the BBC which includes a link to McLaren's findings in relation to the London Olympics in 2012 and further Olympic events in 2013 and 2014.

Doping is the course of modern sport, from the Olympic Games to professional cycling, yet instead of being part of the solution the Russian Government under President Putin appears to be a huge part of the problem.

Russian doping: McLaren report says more than 1,000 athletes implicated

BBC Sport
The report's author, Richard McLaren (centre), said doping took place on 'an unprecedented scale'

More than 1,000 Russians - including Olympic medallists - benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015, a report claims.

At least 30 sports, including football, covered up samples, the report says.

"It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy," said the report's author, Richard McLaren.

Lawyer McLaren said London 2012 was "corrupted on an unprecedented scale".

The report also implicates medallists at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

According to the report, salt and coffee were used to manipulate Russian samples.

The report added the system was refined over the course of the 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds and Winter Olympics to protect likely Russian medal winners.

Russia doping - How we got here
Life on the run for Russian whistleblower

Russia won 72 medals at the London Games, 21 of which were gold, and 33 medals at Sochi, 13 of which were gold.

McLaren's second report added depth and supporting evidence to the initial findings published in July - that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme.

That first report was met with denials from Russia and calls for more proof from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Writing in his latest report, McLaren says: "The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play."

He said international sports competitions had been "unknowingly hijacked by the Russians" and sports fans have been "deceived" for years.

"It is time that stops," he added.

In a statement, Russia's sports ministry said it would examine the report but insisted on "the absence of a state programme of support for doping sport". It said it would "continue to fight doping from a position of zero tolerance".

Russian MP Dmitry Svishchev, who is also the head of Russia's Curling Federation, was quoted by Ria Novosti news agency as saying: "This is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you'll get accused of every single sin."

When asked for a reaction to those comments, McLaren said: "I would say read the report. Its findings are not challengeable. He is reacting in a vacuum because he has not read the report."

The new report also found:
  • At the Sochi Games, two Russian female ice hockey players had male urine samples.
  • A total of 15 Russian medal winners at London 2012 were implicated [10 medals have since been taken away].
  • The samples of 12 medal-winning athletes at Sochi 2014 had evidence of tampering.
  • Six winners of 21 Paralympic medals at Sochi had their samples tampered with.
  • Emails were found asking for instructions from the Russian Ministry of Sport on what to do with a positive sample - save or quarantine?
  • Spreadsheets were found containing lists of athletes whose samples had been saved.
  • A clean urine bank was kept in Moscow.
  • A cocktail of drugs - known as the "Duchess" - with a very short detection window was developed to assist athletes in evading doping.
  • Salt and instant coffee granules were added to clean urine samples to match the appearance of the positive samples.
  • Three samples at Sochi had salt readings that were physiologically impossible.
Investigators have published a searchable database of all the non-confidential evidence they have gathered here.

The full report can be read here.

How urine sample swapping worked

The firsdoping flow chartt McLaren report explained how disappearing positive drug tests were secreted through "mouse holes" drilled by spies. 

That was based on information received from Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, a director of the anti-doping laboratory at Sochi 2014.

He had said the Russian secret service developed ways of opening sample bottles and replacing their contents without intervention being detected. 
doping flow chart

He had said the Russian secret service developed ways of opening sample bottles and replacing their contents without intervention being detected. The new report claims to have compiled clear details on exactly how the sample bottles in Sochi were tampered with.

The new report claims to have compiled clear details on exactly how the sample bottles in Sochi were tampered with.

Investigators used a tool which matched the description of one used by the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service), which leaves tiny marks and scratches when the inside of a cap is opened.
An expert was given 13 bottles, one of which had not been tampered with, which he immediately spotted. 
In cases of alleged sample swapping, investigators found there were scratches and marks on the inside of the cap, along with DNA inconsistencies.

Analysis - BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Once again the gory details of Russian state-sponsored cheating have been laid bare by Professor Richard McLaren.

The difference now is those claims have been backed up with concrete evidence.

Some of the details really do defy belief, and the fact the Russian government is so strongly implicated will inevitably lead to calls for Russian athletes to be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics, and perhaps even for the 2018 football World Cup to be taken away from the country.
Reaction - 'hugely significant'

The IOC said the report showed "there was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general".

It said it would re-analyse all 254 urine samples collected from Russian athletes at Sochi 2014.

UK Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead said the report was "hugely significant for sport and those who fight to keep it clean".

She added: "Everyone engaged in sport needs to ensure that the right processes, sanctions and safeguards are in place to protect everyone's right to clean, fair and honest sport."

She also called for more funding to support investigations.

Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said the Russian Olympic Committee should be suspended, and no sporting events should be held in the country until "all the individuals who participated in the corruption are held accountable".

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) described the report's findings as "unprecedented and astonishing", adding: "They strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport."

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the body that governs world athletics, said: "It is time that this manipulation stops." It said it will take further action once it is able to examine the latest report.

British marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said Russia had committed a "huge fraud". She added: "We need to know this cannot happen ever again."

Katherine Grainger, Britain's most decorated female Olympian, told BBC Radio 5 live: "This is a reminder that, along with all those high points in sport, there is a very dark side. It's depressing and it's slightly soul-destroying that it's on this scale."

Paralympic table tennis champion Will Bayley said: "I do have compassion for the athletes. Because if they were forced into it, and they are never going to be able to compete in the sport that they love, then that's really sad."

UK sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "The sheer scale of what has been uncovered underlines just how much more needs to be done.

"We will continue to assist on this front, including in Russia, where UK Anti-Doping is assisting Wada by managing a testing programme that we hope will lead to Russia becoming compliant with the Wada."

What is the reaction in Russia?

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told state news agency R-Sport the report contains "nothing new".

He said Russian athletes "should train calmly" for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Igor Lebedev, deputy speaker of the Russian parliament and a member of the executive committee of the Russian Football Federation, said: "This is yet another torrent of lies, disinformation, rumours and fables."

Natalia Gart, president of the Russian Luge Federation, said: "Where are the facts? You can say this is nothing but rubbish... I am convinced that all of our athletes are clean and the silver medals that we won at Sochi are well deserved."
What is Russia doing about doping?

The Russian Investigations Committee - the country's main anti-corruption body - continues to investigate criminal cases that have been launched.

The committee says 60 athletes have so far been questioned.

Senior officials from Russia's sports ministry, its anti-doping agency and the Russian Athletics Federation are also said to have been questioned.

On Wednesday, Russia's anti-doping agency (Rusada) appointed former double Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva to chair its new board.

The move was questioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), which said Rusada broke an agreement it would be consulted before any appointment was made.

Isinbayeva, 34, was strongly critical of Wada's recommendation that all Russian athletes be banned from Rio 2016.

McLaren was asked whether Russians athletes could be trusted in the future.

He said: "I think the answer to that is yes but they need to reform themselves. I've spoken with many Russian officials since July and they are putting together a very comprehensive programme which, if implemented properly, will make a major difference."
What could happen next?

Wada says it will now pass evidence on Russian athletes' doping to the relevant international sporting federations and governing bodies.

In a news conference on Thursday, IOC president Thomas Bach said the McLaren report's findings would be taken up by two further commissions.

Only once those commissions had made their recommendations could the IOC decide what steps to take, he said.

"As soon as we have the report it will be handed over to the two commissions, who have already undertaken preparatory work," Bach said.

"But if you ask me for my private opinion then personally if you have an athlete being part of such a manipulation system, clearly I would not like to see this person compete again."

More on the IOC's two commissions

The IOC says its 'Inquiry Commission', chaired by former president of Switzerland Samuel Schmid, will address the "institutional conspiracy across summer and winter sports athletes" with particular regard to Sochi 2014.

Its 'Disciplinary Commission', chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald, will address "doping and manipulation of samples concerning the Russian athletes who participated at Sochi 2014".
What has already been done?

In May, McLaren was tasked by Wada with investigating allegations of doping in Russia.

He published the first part of his report - stating Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme from 2011 - in July.

As a result, Wada recommended all Russian athletes be banned from competing from the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

But the IOC chose not to impose a blanket ban, instead leaving decisions on whether Russians could compete to individual sporting federations.

Russia eventually took 271 athletes from an original entry list of 389 competitors to August's Olympic Games in Rio.

However, the IPC chose to ban the nation entirely from the Paralympics in September.

Last week, the IAAF has decided to extend Russia's ban from international competitions.

Putin's Russia (18/06/16)

The international athletics federation (IAAF) has banned Russian athletes from taking part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil because of suspected drug cheating on an industrial scale, which has to mean that the Russian Government is involved not just individual athletes.

The BBC reports on the refusal of Russian authorities to co-operate with the recent WADA investigation which makes a mockery of attempts to drive the drug cheats out of sport.

Meanwhile President Putin makes a dumb joke about the impossibility of just a few hundred, extremely violent Russian football fans 'beating up' several thousand rival English supporters during the Euro championships.

But the live TV coverage of what happened inside the ground speaks for itself as does the fact that the Russian football federation was the only one to be fined over the thuggish behaviour of its fans. 

Russia doping: New Wada report reveals obstructions to testing

BBC Olympics

Russian athletes have been banned from competing in international competitions since November 2015

Anti-doping officials in Russia are being stopped from testing athletes and are also being threatened by security services, says a new report.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) made its latest claims two days before Russia finds out whether it can send athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

They were banned from international competition after Wada accused Russia of state-sponsored doping.

Athletics chiefs meet on Friday to decide whether to lift the ban.

What does the Wada report say?

It says that:
  • 73 of 455 tests on athletes could not be collected;
  • 736 tests were declined or cancelled;
  • 23 tests were missed, which the report says is a "significant amount";
  • and 52 findings were adverse.
The report details the lengths athletes from different sports allegedly went to, both to avoid tests and fool doping control officers (DCOs).

It says one athlete was seen running away from the mixed zone after an event, while another left the stadium during a race and could not be located.

Wada also highlighted the case of an athlete who, it says, used a container - "presumably containing clean urine" - that had been inserted inside her.

When she tried to use the container, it leaked onto the floor.

The athlete is alleged to have tried to bribe the DCO before providing a sample that subsequently returned an adverse finding.

The report also says that:
  • DCOs have been intimidated when accessing military cities, with armed federal security agents threatening them with expulsion from the country;
  • Wada-accredited laboratories have reported that sample transportation packages have been opened by Russian customs, suggesting interference by officials;
  • And national championships for Olympic sports, including Olympic qualifiers, have been held in cities with restricted access due to ongoing civil conflicts, resulting in service providers declining test requests.
As a result, tests were not carried out at the national weightlifting and national Greco-Roman wrestling championships.

In some cases, testers were not told where an event was taking place.

"What really comes through, when you read through it page by page by page, is the number of occasions when there was simply no co-operation given," former Wada president Dick Pound told the BBC World Service.
Why are Russian athletes banned?

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted to suspend Russia's athletics federation on 13 November after an independent Wada report alleged "state-sponsored doping".

The report was commissioned to investigate claims made in a documentary shown by German broadcaster ARD in 2014.

The programme alleged widespread doping in Russian athletics, claiming as many as 99% of athletes had cheated.

The claims were made by whistleblowers, among them Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official, and his wife Yulia, a former 800m runner who was banned for doping.

Russian athletes, including former London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova, also admitted to taking drugs and observing corruption.

The Wada report found evidence of state involvement, as well as evidence that samples had been destroyed, doping controls had been interfered and bribes had been paid to conceal positive tests.

What happens next?

The IAAF meets on Friday in Vienna to discuss what Russian authorities have done to tackle doping and whether its athletes should compete in Rio.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the country could take legal action if its athletics federation was not reinstated, Interfax news agency has reported.

"It is a big and an important message whatever is decided," said Pound.

"If they are held to be excluded, that's a message. If they are allowed to come back in, there is going to be another message that all of the sporting authorities are going to have to deal with."

Pound said a ban on Russian athletes competing in the Olympics would be extremely difficult for the Russian government to explain to its citizens.

"You can explain all sorts of economic sanctions and political sanctions and what not if you are the state," he said.

"But it is very hard to explain to a country that really enjoys its sport and likes to watch it why it is that nobody will play with you."

Meanwhile, Russian Olympic medallists and world champions have appealed to the head of the International Olympic Committee to let athletes with no history of doping to compete at the Rio Games.

"The fraud of dishonest people should not jeopardise the career of innocent fellow athletes," said 13 sports stars in a letter to Thomas Bach.

The 13 include Alexander Popov, a four-time Olympic champion swimmer, and judo champion Tagir Khaibulaev.

The Olympic athletics programme begins in Brazil on 12 August.

Russian Alexander Popov won four freestyle swimming Olympic golds

Russian Dopes (10/11/15)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is an independent organisation charged with cleaning up international athletics and has just concluded that the Russian state, not just individual athletes, has been actively involved in cheating and corruption on a massive scale.

Predictably, Russia's response has been to rubbish WADA's investigation and to accuse other countries of engaging in a groundless conspiracy, even though the evidence against Russian athletes and officials is incontrovertible.

The BBC reports on a 'betrayal", a "destruction of public faith" and a"dark day" for athletics" against the background of the WADA logo 'Play True'.  

Doping & corruption report a 'dark day' for athletics

Image result for wada + images

A "betrayal", a "destruction of public faith" and a "dark day" for athletics.

Leading figures have responded to a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report, which has recommended Russia should be banned from competition.

British sports minister Tracey Crouch called the findings an "extraordinarily dark day for athletics".

The report examines claims of doping, cover-ups, and extortion in Russian athletics, which also implicated the IAAF, the sport's world governing body.

The report also states the London 2012 Olympics were "sabotaged" by participation of Russian athletes under suspicion, while Dick Pound - head of the independent commission - described it as "state-sponsored doping".

Athletics' darkest day?

IAAF president Lord Coe described the scale and depth of the report's findings "truly shocking".

After promising to "move quickly" on the independent commission's recommendations, Coe told BBC Sport: "I want to see a sport that is responsible and transparent and accountable and I will do anything it takes to achieve that. But this will not be swift road, this will be tough."

Former British Olympian Roger Black echoed Crouch's reaction, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If you're looking at a governing body as corrupt, and they are protecting the guilty athletes, then that changes everything going forward.

"There's always been an assumption that your governing body is there for you as an athlete, and is there to sort out the cheats.

"It's a very dark day."

Tessa Jowell, former Olympics minister, added: "This is what destroys public faith in the competition they see on their televisions or go to see. There is very clear a problem of culture."

What the athletes say

Paula Radcliffe, marathon world record holder, on Twitter: "Just got off plane to catch up on these damning and serious revelations. Too much to address in tweets: bottom line - truth eventually comes.

"Suspected some of this for years but way worse than imagined. Athletics needs to take strong action and move quickly forward in right direction."

London 2012 long jump champion Greg Rutherford posted a message on Instagram

Louise Hazel, British heptathlete: "I am disappointed but I am not surprised that doping continues to be rife through the world of athletics.

"I have been in situations where I have seen athletes doping right before my eyes.

"Giving athletes a two-year ban and allowing them to come back to compete for gold medals is just not good enough. Full-time bans and you are out of the sport. Simple as that."

Mara Yamauchi, second fastest British female marathon runner of all time: "I'm not very surprised, it helps to explain a lot of the suspicions I've had about particularly Russian athletes who I used to compete against.

"It's easy to direct your anger at the athletes but actually what this story really shows is that the serious wrongdoing is going on further up the chain on the part of agents, coaches, officials, directors of anti-doping and national federations and it's really those people that should be punished."

British 400m hurdler Dai Greene commented on Twitter about Wada's findings
Lynsey Sharp, who represented Britain in the 800m at London 2012, also reacted on Twitter
Former heptathlete and 400m runner Kelly Sotherton represented Britain at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics

Katharine Merry won 400m bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000
Official bodies react to Wada findings

Wada president Sir Craig Reedie told BBC Radio 5 live: "I think it's appalling and is probably worse than anyone imagined. Clearly there has been deliberate cheating and also oversight.

"While it is unpleasant that it has become worldwide debate, I think there should be credit given to my agency for having the courage to appoint an independent commission and putting it in the public domain."

International Olympics Committee statement: "This is a deeply shocking report and very saddening for the world of sport.

"The protection of the clean athletes is a top priority for the International Olympic Committee. We support the attempt of the independent commission to bring all the facts to light in the interest of the integrity of the sport and the protection of the clean athletes."

UK Anti-Doping statement: "The Independent Commission's findings highlight that the international playing field has not been level for our clean British athletes competing on the global stage. Today's findings will go some way to levelling that playing field for our athletes, and the whistle-blowers and media should be applauded for bringing these issues to Wada's attention."

Russian Thugs (15/06/16)

On the off chance that any readers are naive enough to believe that Russia is a normal, peaceful democratic country - just read the following Twitter comments from the Deputy Chair of the Russian Parliament, Igor Lebedev.

Now the man's an idiot, of course, but he's a senior and influential political figure who graduated from the Moscow Academy of Law in 1996, would you believe. 

If people at the top of Russian society can behave in this way, is it any wonder that violent, anti-social football hooligans follow their lead.


Igor Lebedev, Deputy Chair of Russian Parliament, praises the hooligans (ht @JoshFeldberg)