Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

IOC presented forged signatures in doping case against Russian biathletes, lawyers say

RT | March 2, 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been given one day to provide an explanation regarding alleged forged signatures on documents presented as evidence against Russian biathletes accused of doping.

On Monday the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) considered a claim by Russian lawyer Alexey Panich, who said that IOC documents on the case involving three Russian biathletes – Olga Zaitseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina – contained fake signatures of former Moscow Anti-Doping laboratory chief Grigory Rodchenkov.

The trio of Russian athletes were slapped with lifetime bans in 2017 and stripped of medals over alleged doping violations.

According to TASS, the IOC will need to provide an explanation regarding the documents – the key evidence against the Russian athletes – by Tuesday.

The athletes retired from sport in 2017, but filed an appeal with CAS attempting to overturn the decision imposed by the IOC on the verge of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

The athletes are seeking monetary compensation for damage inflicted to their reputation and sporting career.

The former head of the Moscow laboratory Rodchenkov fled Russia at the end of 2015, becoming WADA’s key informant in the case on the alleged state sponsored doping program in the country.

His accusations instigated a massive crackdown against Russia, which affected the country’s participation at the 2016 and 2018 Games in Brazil and South Korea respectively.

At the 2018 PyeongChang Games, Russian athletes are competing under a neutral flag and under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) without national emblems, which were banned by the IOC.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Geopolitics before sport: Russian athletes were punished for being Russian

By Neil Clark | RT | January 23, 2019

Russian athletes, falsely accused of doping, won an important legal victory at the weekend. But unfortunately, the mud has stuck which is what Russia’s geopolitical enemies always wanted.

As the old saying goes “a lie can be halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on.” Basically on the ‘evidence’ of one man, who lives in America, and the lobbying of certain NATO countries, Russian athletes were collectively held to be guilty of doping offences and deprived of their opportunity to compete at the very highest level.

A great injustice was done to the sportsmen and women involved, but now, finally, the record is being put straight.

On Saturday, the Swiss Supreme Court turned down the International Olympic Committee’s appeal against the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling to acquit 28 members of Team Russia of doping allegations during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Christof Wieschemann, the lawyer for Russian cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who the IOC tried to deprive of Olympic medals, has stated that Russian athletes falsely accused could have avoided career-ruining bans if the IOC hadn’t concealed facts of their innocence.

His firm says that the IOC “seriously violated the procedural rights of the athletes and even withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and the court.”

Wieschemann says he filed no fewer than five written requests to the IOC for evidence against his client, but he was never shown any.

Just imagine if US athletes had been treated in such a scandalous way. But it’s Russians and of course we all know they’re a bunch of cheats, don’t we? That’s certainly what we are supposed to believe by those who want us to hate Russia as much as they do.

The campaign to get Russian athletes banned can be traced back directly to those countries who are most vocal in opposing Russia internationally. This is about politics and not genuine concern about sporting malpractice.

In July 2016, Reuters revealed how the heads of US and Canada’s anti-doping bodies had drafted a letter to WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, calling for ALL Russian athletes to be banned from the Rio Olympic Games. The letter was circulated by the Canadian representative to other WADA members.

As I wrote here, just imagine if the Russian anti-doping agency had sought to get all US or Canada athletes banned, whether or not they had been found guilty of cheating.

The WADA report into alleged Russian ‘state-sponsored’ doping, based solely on the testimony of former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who defected to the US in 2015, was put together by a Canadian lawyer, Richard McLaren.

No one is saying that McLaren was himself biased, but surely in the interests of natural justice, would it not have been better if the report had been compiled by someone from a non-NATO country and not a country that was, quite clearly, pushing for a Russian ban?

Even Russian Paralympians have been victimized. In 2016, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) bowed to pressure to introduce a blanket ban on Russian Paralympians competing in Rio. Six of the 14 members of the IPC’s governing board came from NATO countries.

The IOC itself came under enormous pressure to introduce a similar blanket ban on Team Russia competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. We know from leaks from the hacktivist group Fancy Bear, that the IOC was far from satisfied with the ‘proof’ of a state-sponsored program in parts of the McLaren report. We also know that Martial Saugy, the former director of the WADA’s accredited doping Laboratory of Lausanne accused the McLaren report of making “incorrect allegations.”

In November 2017, WADA chief Craig Reedie admitted that, while there were “hints” and “claims” of evidence of a systematic state-sponsored Russian doping scheme, 95 of the 96 cases of Russian athletes WADA was investigating had been suspended because “there was not sufficient evidence to pursue an anti-doping rule violation.”

In normal times, the IOC would have acknowledged that the case against Russia did not stack up. But these were not normal times.

Portraying Russia as a country that cheated, on a routine, state-sanctioned level at sport has been an important part of the propaganda campaign to delegitimize the country and place it in the international ‘sin-bin.’ This would be punishment for Russia for daring to thwart neocon plans for regime change in Syria and for being a competitor with the US in the lucrative European energy markets. Russia can’t be trusted. It needs to be sanctioned. Don’t you get the message?

It was entirely predictable that the IOC’s decision to ban Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in PyeongChang, was lauded on social media by the late US neocon Senator John McCain. He also used it an opportunity to call, once again, for FIFA to take the 2018 Football World Cup away from Russia.

An American playwright called Bryan Fogel, also did his bit. As I noted here, it was Fogel and Rodchenkov who took their story to the New York Times, triggering the McLaren report.

‘Icarus’, the documentary film Fogel made, which included interviews with Rodchenkov, not surprisingly given the neo-con induced Russophobic climate, won an Academy Award in 2018.

In an interview with the FT, Fogel said Russia had a “cultural problem” with drugs, which went back to communism.

Let’s not mention how communist Hungary were cheated out of the 1954 World Cup, or the allegations about widespread US doping made by Wade Exum, the US Olympic Committee’s former director of drug control, in 2003, shall we?

I took a look at Fogel’s Twitter feed and guess what? The first tweet is a retweet of Kremlin critic Bill Browder. Fogel also refers to WADA chief Sir Craig Reedie – who spoke to RT in 2017 – as a “criminal President.”

You can see where he’s coming from.

Saturday’s Swiss court decision comes too late for the innocent Russian athletes who lost their chance to compete under the flag of their own country at the greatest sporting events in the world.

But it should, I think, inspire a new report and then a new investigative documentary on the campaign to get Russia banned. It could be called ‘Robbed!’. Only this time, don’t expect it to win an Oscar.

January 23, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Wars for Israel | | Leave a comment

Russian athletes exonerated but ignored in the West

By Rick Sterling | RT | May, 2018

A major revelation in the CAS decision is that Richard McLaren, whose reports have formed the basis for banning Russians from the last two Olympics, has qualitatively changed his claim against Russian athletes.

Last year, the Disciplinary Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC DC) issued rulings that 44 Russian athletes were guilty of Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

Many of these athletes had been preparing intensely for the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Some 39 Russian athletes quickly filed appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), claiming their innocence. The hearings proceeded rapidly.

On February 1, 2018, the CAS announced its decisions: they partially upheld 11 appeals and entirely upheld the appeals of the other 28 Russian athletes. The decision rocked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). IOC President Thomas Bach said the decision was “extremely disappointing and surprising.”

A week ago, on April 23, the CAS published the full decisions for the first two of 39 Russian athletes. The documents explain the facts, evidence and reasoning behind the CAS decisions to partially or totally uphold the cases of the Russian athletes. The appeal by Aleksandr Zubkov was partly upheld. Alexander Legkov’s appeal was entirely upheld, his Sochi Olympics medals returned and his records reinstated.

McLaren changes his big accusation

The CAS decision revealed that McLaren made qualitative changes to claims made in his reports, which had formed the basis for the Russian bans. In his second report, McLaren concluded: “Over 1,000 Russian athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sport, can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.”

This claim featured in news headlines around the world. In the UK, The Guardian story headlined: “McLaren report: more than 1,000 Russian athletes involved in doping conspiracy.” The BBC said“Russian doping: McLaren report says more than 1,000 implicated.” The New York Times story ran: “Report Shows Vast Reach of Russian Doping: 1,000 Athletes, 30 Sports.”

The CAS decision on Alexander Legkov reveals that McLaren has changed his “key finding.” As described on page 68, “Prof. McLaren went on to explain that, in this respect, if his investigation obtained evidence that a particular athlete may have benefited from the scheme, then ‘It didn’t mean that they did benefit. It didn’t mean that they committed [an] anti-doping rule violation.'”

Sixteen months ago, international media had headlines stated that over 1,000 Russian athletes benefited from a vast state-run doping conspiracy. Now, McLaren says he did not really mean to say that… he meant that they “may have” benefited. There is a major difference between saying that someone “might have” committed a crime versus saying they did commit a crime. The former is speculative. The latter requires evidence.

The CAS looked at the evidence rather than simply accepting McLaren’s speculations and assertions.

In contrast with IOC President Bach’s statement, David Own at Inside the Games believes the CAS arbitrators are to be congratulated. “They seem to have made every effort, most properly in my view, to follow the evidence that was presented to them, while endeavoring to shut out the overheated geopolitical atmosphere still enveloping any issue pertaining to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” He says the CAS decisions have helped buttress CAS credibility as an independent, objective and legally fair institution.

No decision on athlete’s due process rights

Unfortunately, the CAS decided to NOT consider “the athlete’s submissions concerning the alleged violations of his due process rights during the proceedings before the IOC DC… the Panel takes the view that no useful purpose would be served by determining whether the overturned findings and sanctions were the product of a procedure that failed to respect the Athlete’s due process rights.” (page 151, Legkov decision)

This is unfortunate, because the violations of due process have been blatant from the start of the accusations and penalization of Russian athletes. For example, the banning of Russian track and field and Paralympic athletes from the Rio Summer Games was based on McLaren’s first report, which did not allow Russians to respond to the accusations. The failure of due process was explained by sports attorney Ron Katz:

“Not even attempting to interview Russian officials is fundamentally unfair… Due process is not an empty phrase. Without it, there cannot be justice.”

The CAS’ “reasoned decision” reveals that the IOC Disciplinary Commission uncritically accepted the claims and assertions of Richard McLaren. In reality, as documented here, McLaren made many unfounded assertions and misrepresented the testimony of his own toolmarks expert. McLaren claimed that the findings were “immutable facts” and “conclusive” where the expert actually said: “These marks on their own should not be considered to be conclusive…” In his report, the expert added explanations for innocent causes which could result in the same type of marks. (Forensic Report EDP0902 at Evidence Disclosure Package)

Continuing the lack of due process, Russian athletes including Alexander Legkov were unfairly excluded from the most recent Winter Olympics held in PyeongChang. They were given very little time to appeal the decision banning them, and when their appeals were supported, they were still banned by the IOC. One could argue that for many of these athletes, “justice delayed is justice denied.” The February Winter Games were the last possible Olympics for some of the athletes.

When McLaren falsely claimed that “Over 1,000 Russian athletes were complicit in doping,” it was front-page news in Western media. Now that Russian athletes are being acquitted of doping violations, and relatively few are found guilty, the Western media is silent.

May 4, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Top sports court overturns IOC’s ban on 28 Russian athletes in groundbreaking ruling

RT | February 1, 2018

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has cleared 28 Russian athletes and dropped their life-bans over alleged doping. Their results have been reinstated and the athletes are eligible to compete in the 2018 Winter Games.

“Both CAS panels unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case,” the statement from the Lausanne-based international body said.

According to the ruling, in 28 cases filed by the Russian athletes the evidence was “insufficient” to establish that “an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes.”

“With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated,” it said.

CAS also partially upheld the appeals of other 11 Russian athletes as the evidence collected “was found to be sufficient to establish an individual ADRV.”

The ruling said that these 11 athletes were declared “ineligible” for the upcoming PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, instead of a life ban from all Games.

Among those allowed to participate in the games are Sochi Olympic champion cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin.

Speed-skater Olga Fatkulina, bobsledders Dmitry Trunenkov and Alexey Negodaylo, and skeleton racer Aleksandr Tretiakov – all of whom won gold or silver medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics – were given permission to take part in the Games this year.

The CAS decision proves that Russian athletes who were accused of doping violations are indeed “clean,” Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told journalists. “We are all happy that justice has finally been served,” he said.

On December 5, the IOC Executive Board banned team Russia from the PyeongChang Winter Games due to allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The ruling said that “clean” Russian athletes can only compete under a neutral flag in South Korea.

The decision came after the results of two separate investigations of alleged Russian doping: one regarding individual athletes, the other focusing on alleged institutional violations.

More than 40 Russian athletes, including Sochi Olympic champions, have been slapped with life bans from the IOC and had their Sochi records annulled as punishment for alleged doping violations in Sochi.

The CAS decision doesn’t necessarily mean that these 28 athletes will be invited to the 2018 Games, the IOC said in a statement. “Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation,” the organization added.

According to the Olympic governing body, Russian athletes “can participate in PyeongChang only on invitation by the IOC.”

Russian Olympic Assembly chief Alexander Zhukov called the CAS decision “fair,” adding that these 28 athletes are now able to take part in the 2018 Olympic Games. “From the very start, we’ve insisted that our athletes are not involved in any doping frauds, and now we are happy that the court has restored their name and all rewards were returned to them,” he said.

February 1, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | | Leave a comment

IOC bans Russia: Cold War 2.0 politics ruins the Olympics

By Neil Clark | RT | December 6, 2017

The announcement by the International Olympic Committee that Russia would be banned from the PyeongChang Winter Olympics – but that Russian athletes, if proven ‘clean’ from doping would be able to compete under a neutral banner- has to be seen in its wider geopolitical context.

The decision comes amid a backdrop of unrelenting Russophobia fueled by Western elites who are furious Russia has thwarted their plans for regime change in Syria and is generally getting in the way of US hegemonic aspirations and the neocon/globalist agenda.

Revealingly, straight after the IOC decision was announced leading Russophobes, like US Senator John McCain, were renewing their calls for the 2018 football World Cup to be taken away from Russia, showing that this is about the reviving of Cold War politics and not drugs. It’s clear ‘The Endless War’ lobby in the West wants Russia isolated, humiliated and banned from everything. Sport is only one front in their obsessive campaign, attacks on the Russian media is another. In the current climate, it is virtually impossible Russia would get a fair hearing.

Question One: How would you feel if you were an athlete who had trained hard for four years for the Olympics only to be beaten by someone who it later transpired had cheated by using drugs?

Question Two: How would you feel if you were an athlete who had trained hard for four years for the Olympics only to be barred from competing for your country because someone else from your country had been held to have taken drugs?

I’m sure you’d agree that in both cases you would feel very aggrieved. It’s right and proper that drug cheats should be punished – from whatever country they come from – so long as the evidence is there. It’s also right and proper that the innocent don’t pay for the sins of the guilty.

The job of sporting authorities is to make sure that justice is done. That means banning athletes who are proved to have broken the rules, but not imposing blanket bans when evidence of a state-sponsored drug program is missing or inconclusive. And not allowing geopolitics to play any part in their deliberations.

Russia should be treated like any other country; we can surely all agree on that. Alas, that isn’t what appears to have happened.

Last year, there was a blanket ban on Russian Paralympians competing in Rio- imposed by the IPC, which has representatives from six NATO countries on its 14 member board – punishing athletes who had never done anything wrong.

Russian athletes have been banned (and stripped of their medals) without proof of their guilt being published by the IOC’s Oswald Commission – which was set up in July 2016 to investigate the second part of the McLaren report (more of which later). The IOC says it will publish the evidence of ‘violations’ in ‘due course’ – but if they have it – why not now.

How can it be right to ban people without publishing the evidence?

This witch-hunt against Russian athletes goes back to the McLaren report. How authoritative was that? Answer: not very. If you think that’s just ‘Russian propaganda,’ ITV Sports editor Steve Scott acknowledged in November that we are not in “beyond reasonable doubt territory” – in his article “Did the McLaren report into Russian doping overstep the mark.”

For the first part of the report – McLaren, a law professor from a country (Canada) which is a geopolitical adversary of Russia and whose anti-doping agency head, had along with his US counterpart, tried to lobby the IOC to ban ALL Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics last year admitted he “did not seek to interview persons living within the Russian Federation.”

This is a breach of a fundamental principle of natural justice – namely “audi alteram partem” (“listen to the other side”). That wasn’t all that was unsatisfactory about McLaren’s report. There was the lack of supporting evidence for its claims. The line was “we don’t know how they tampered with the urine samples, but we know the Russians did it.” And of course, the report was heavily based –as ITV news conceded last night- on the testimony of just one man- Grigory Rodchenkov- former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory who defected to the US. But just how trustworthy a witness was he?

For the second part of his report McLaren did meet “some” Russian officials, but not all who have been accused.

Furthermore, as recently as November 27, WADA chief Craig Reedie said that while there were “hints” and “claims” of evidence of a systematic state-sponsored Russian doping scheme, 95 of the 96 cases of Russian athletes WADA is investigating have been suspended because “there was not sufficient evidence to pursue an anti-doping violation.”

Yet despite this, before the announcement in Lausanne yesterday, there were exhortations from Western media commentators for the IOC to “do the right thing, ” i.e., ban Russia – based on a report which had more holes in it than a giant slab of Swiss cheese.

Imagine if Thomas Bach, IOC President, had announced Russia would not be banned as conclusive evidence of a state-sponsored doping program had not been presented – which was indeed the case. Then much of the Russia-bashing Western media would have turned their guns on Bach and his committee accusing him, and them, of being “corrupt” and “in cahoots with Putin.”

Remember the attacks on the IOC when they didn’t impose a blanket ban on Russia at last year’s Rio Olympics? How much did that influence the IPC to make their decision?

As I noted here, all roads in the campaign to ban Russia, lead back to the US and Canada.

Far from providing ‘conclusive evidence’ the McLaren report was struggling to do the job of getting Russia banned.

In February, leaks from the hacktivist group ‘Fancy Bear’ revealed the IOC was not satisfied with the ‘proof’ in some parts of the report and asked 56 questions about 16 of the accused.

An earlier leak also revealed that Martial Saugy, the former director of the WADA’s accredited doping Laboratory of Lausanne accused the McLaren report of making “incorrect allegations.”

McLaren needed a major leg-up in 2017, and it was given one, by US Off-Broadway playwright called Bryan Fogel. Fogel’s documentary film Icarus, which featured interviews with Rodchenkov was released in August. In fact, it was Fogel and Rodchenkov taking the story to the New York Times in May 2016 which led to the McLaren report in the first place.

What started as a ‘Super Size Me’ experiment in doping ended up turning into – in the words of The Independent – “an explosive expose of Russia’s Olympic cover-up.”

“Icarus may be the best non-fiction film of the year,” declared the Financial Times. “A coup for a first-time documentarian,” enthused The Atlantic.

Icarus won prizes at film festivals in the US and UK, and it’s also been tipped to make the Oscars short-list, but not all were convinced that it had proven its case. “Netflix doping scandal doc is flawed but fascinating,” was the title of The Guardian’s review. “There’s an inescapable slipperiness to Rodchenkov’s character that makes his testimony slightly hard to swallow,” wrote Gwilym Mumford.

In an interview with the FT, Fogel, who we’re told “stumbled” into the Russian doping story, reveals that he believes Russia has a “cultural” problem with drugs.

“The mentality of an entire culture of people, of a country, is different,” he says. “You have to place yourself in that perspective . . . If you’re growing up in a world like Grigory (Rodchenkov) under communism, and everybody is doping, his mother injects him with steroids — nothing is wrong.”

Fogel’s film fits in very conveniently with the current wave of Russophobia.

Last night, some were asking on social media if without Icarus Russia would have been banned.

The aim of anti-Russian propagandists in the West is quite clearly to portray Russia as a ‘doping nation’ that never tells the truth. But, as that wise old saying goes, if you point one finger, you have three pointing back at you.

As I wrote here, it was only in 2003 when allegations were made by a top American official about widespread US doping:

Wade Exum, the US Olympic Committee’s former Director of Drug Control, handed over more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated magazine and the Orange County Register, which he said showed that over 100 American athletes had failed drug tests between 1988-2000, but had still been allowed to compete.

Carl Lewis, the US Olympian later admitted he had tested positive for banned substances before the 1988 Games in Seoul where he won Gold but claimed that ‘hundreds’ of fellow Americans had also escaped bans.

“There were hundreds of people getting off,” Lewis said. “Everyone was treated the same.”

But guess what? There was no McLaren style report and no blanket ban on US athletes. And no film made about the story like Icarus.

As for the charge that under ‘communism’ “everyone is doping” let’s think back to the 1954 World Cup final. Then the best football team in the world (and arguably the team of all time) the Magical Magyars from communist Hungary, were surprisingly beaten 3-2 in the final by West Germany after they had thrashed the Germans 8-3 in the Group stage. How did the so-called ‘Miracle of Bern’ happen? For years Hungarians believed they had been cheated. And so it proved. A 2013 report commissioned by the German Olympic Sports Federation, whose head incidentally is IOC Chair Thomas Bach, revealed not only that the German players had been injected with the methamphetamine Pervitin, but that West Germany had operated a 20-year state-sponsored doping program with the full knowledge of politicians and sports officials.

Will Hungary be awarded the 1954 World Cup and those who finished second behind the 100 American competitors who failed drug tests be promoted? If we’re changing the results of Sochi and stripping Russians of medals, shouldn’t we be doing it across the board?

You don’t have to be Russian, or Hungarian to feel angry about the double standards.

When it comes to doping and punishment for alleged doping some countries, namely the US and those closely allied to Washington, are most definitely more equal than others.

Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 2 Comments

Open Letter to the World Anti Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee

Regarding the McLaren Report and the Politicization of Doping in Sports

By Rick Sterling | American Herald Tribune | March 27, 2017

Russian track and field athletes, plus the entire Paralympics team, were banned from the Rio Games last summer.

This was based on the first McLaren report commissioned by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). 

The second McLaren Report was published in December 2016 and immediately accepted by the western media and political establishment as “proof” of the accusations about institutional corruption and doping conspiracy in Russia.  

The following “open letter” is a critical review of the second McLaren Report and accusations of ‘state sponsored doping’ in Russia which have been promoted in the West.

March 27, 2017

Dear WADA President Sir Craig Reedie and Executive Committee,

Dear IOC President Thomas Bach and Executive Committee,

I hope you will persevere and overcome the differences and disagreements between WADA and the International Olympic Committee and Russia. Many people around the world were displeased with the controversy last summer. The contentious situation and mutual accusations distracted from the Rio Olympics, reduced attendance and appeared to undermine the goals of the Olympic Charter against national discrimination.

We are at a point where things could get better or worse. Russian President Putin has said that while they do not accept the accusation of ‘state sponsored doping’, they acknowledge doping violations which need to be prevented in future through coordination with WADA. Some WADA officials have responded favorably. Yet there are countervailing efforts. The U.S. Congress recently held a hearing to further politicize the situation. Meanwhile the Institute of National anti-doping organizations has opposed proposals for independent testing and aggressively criticized the IOC.

As you know, the banning of Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics and Paralympics was largely based on the private statements and first report of Richard McLaren. The evidence supporting these accusations along with details of the “athlete part of the conspiracy” are said to be in McLaren Report #2 issued in December 2016.

To determine the best way forward in keeping with the goals of WADA and the IOC, it is important to look at the facts objectively. As shown below, there are significant inconsistencies, inaccuracies and errors in McLaren Report #2. The problems range from the lack of specific evidence to distortion of the findings of the “toolmarks expert”.

Clearly the situation has been politicized. We need you to resist the pressures and reject calls for blanket condemnations which hurt innocent and guilty alike. Please reject the politicization of doping in sports.

Inaccuracies and distortions in the final McLaren Report include:

(1) McLaren’s Report #2 falsely claims the first report was not challenged. On page 7 McLaren says “The fundamentals of what was described in the 1st Report have neither been the subject of criticism nor contested …” That is untrue. Here are a few examples:

* Forbes published a concise but devastating editorial titled “Russian Complaints about McLaren Report on Alleged State Sponsored Doping Have Merit”. The author, a well known sports and ethnics attorney, identified three ways in which the McLaren Report #1 violated due process. He talked of the significance of this failing:

“Due process is not an empty phrase.  Without it, there cannot be justice. Surely it should be required before a major sporting nation’s athletes are banned from the Olympics and Paralympics.”

* The British Sports Integrity Initiative published a detailed critique of McLaren Report #1 with the following conclusion: “WADA has an important task that deserves support, but not if it becomes a politically biased crusade. As shown above, the McLaren Report has major deficiencies. The targeting of Russia and indiscriminate punishment of their athletes is a betrayal of the Olympic spirit.”

* The Italian Dirito Penale Contemporaneo published a Critical Analysis of the Report of Richard McLaren. The 13 page analysis concludes that the McLaren Report #1 possesses “inconsistencies and exaggerations” and is “biased and unsubstantiated”.

(2) McLaren is inconsistent in his accusations against Russian athletes and knows the evidence may be weak. On page 2 he says “Over 1000 Russian athletes …. can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.” On page 5 there is less certainty as he says “over 1000 Russian athletes … appear to have been involved ….” On page 20 the previous certainty is reduced even more as he says “246 athletes can be identified as potentially knowingly participating in manipulation…”  (underlining added). On page 18 McLaren acknowledges the evidence may be weak as he says “the IP has not assessed the sufficiency of the evidence to prove an ADRV by any individual athlete.” (For readers unfamiliar with the acronyms, McLaren is the “Independent Person” or “IP” and “ADRV” is anti-doping rule violation).

(3) Sports Federations are now confirming that McLaren’s evidence is weak. The lack of evidence is confirmed in the recent findings by different athletic federations. For example the International Biathlon Union recently evaluated McLaren’s information and cleared 22 of 29 Russians who had been implicated. Investigation of the other 7 continues. Even if all 7 are ultimately found guilty that means that 76% were not and suggests that McLaren’s accusation of 1000 complicit Russian athletes was a huge exaggeration.

(4) McLaren accuses Russian officials and institutions without providing evidence. On page 20 he states “The cover up and manipulation of doping control processes involved officials in the Ministry of Sport (“MofS”), CSP , and Federal Security Service (“FSB”) as well as other sport officials and coaches. Also included were both the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (“RUSADA”) and the Moscow Laboratory.” It is widely known that Rodchenkof and the Moscow Laboratory were at the center of doping violations. What is new and requires evidence are the accusations that officials from the Ministry of Sports, Security Services and RUSADA were part of a conspiracy.

When this author contacted Richard McLaren asking where the evidence is, he replied “The EDP is divided into categories so you can locate the documents you are looking for.” The “Evidence Disclosure Package” contains 1,031 evidence documents. A chart assigns each document among twelve general categories. McLaren’s major accusations do not reference a specific document. In effect, the Independent Person tells readers to find it for themselves. This is a very curious way to persuade or convince anyone. It raises the question whether the evidence is weak or non-existent. McLaren admits that there is “no direct evidence of ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) involvement in the conspiracy.”

By contrast, when McLaren explained why he declined the request of the Vice Chairman of the IOC Ethics Commission, he refers to a specific letter which documents the communication (EDP1164). When McLaren describes the WADA directive telling Moscow Laboratory to save samples, he documents the communication (EDP1160). If McLaren has evidence of the “institutional conspiracy”, why does he not identify or present the evidence?

(5) McLaren smears all Russian athletes, innocent and guilty alike. On pages 46-47 he says “doping manipulation and cover up of doping control processes was institutionalized … It is unknown whether athletes knowingly or unknowingly participated in the processes involved. However they may be part of the conspiracy… Together, all of these parties were implicated parts amounting to a conspiracy….” With this logic, McLaren says all Russian athletes are guilty – whether or not they knew, whether or not they participated.

(6) McLaren claims that Rodchenkov followed the directions and instructions of high officials in the Ministry of Sports but provides no evidence. For example, on page 82 McLaren says “On Deputy Minister Nagornykh’s instructions, the first phase in developing the sample swapping technique was launched.” On page 83 he says “At the direction of the MofS, these athletes would collect clean urine in baby bottles, Coke bottles or similar containers and supply it to the CSP.” On page 84 he says, “By direction of Minister Mutko and Deputy Minister Nagornykh all pre-competition washout samples for testing were to be collected only ‘under the table’ in unofficial containers.” If this is true, why does McLaren not provide the evidence in the form of emails or other communication?

(7) McLaren suggests without evidence that the Ministry of Sports was responsible for distributing performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”). On page 64 he says “Centralizing and controlling distribution of PEDs to athletes became an increasingly important element of the doping control system and manipulation.” This is contradicted by the fact that Rodchenkov was previously arrested for possession and distribution of PEDs and his sister was convicted for this activity. It is contradicted by the fact the Rodchenkov and coach Melnikov received payments for the drugs and falsified tests. Many piece of evidence confirm the guilt of McLaren’s principal witness, Dr. Rodchenkov, but none give proof of collusion or direction by the Minister of Sports or another high official.  In a footnote on page 68 McLaren says “it appears that athletes had to pay Coach Melnikov and Rodchenkov for positive samples to be clean.” This suggests a profit making or extortion scheme rather than state organized.

(8) McLaren makes sensational accusations based on erroneous or misleading references. For example on page 74 he refers to the ‘hijacking of the London 2012 Games’. To substantiate this extraordinary claim,  McLaren refers to the 2016 IOC media release “IOC sanctions eight athletes for failing anti-doping test at London 2012” . It is implied these are some of the Russian athletes who “hijacked” the London Games.  This is misleading because only two of the eight disqualified athletes were Russian.

(9) McLaren bases his “forensic analysis” on the findings of a “world renowned expert in firearms and toolmarks examinations” but mysteriously keeps his identity secret and does not cross-check or validate his investigation results. Richard McLaren says his conclusions are based on “immutable facts” and “forensic analysis”. The lofty words largely boil down to this:

– A toolmarks expert determined there was a way to open the supposedly tamper-proof urine sample bottles to   allow exchange of dirty urine with clean urine. However the clandestine bottle cap opening would leave some slight marks. The marks were found to be of two types.

– Based on advice from Rodchenkov, McLaren did an investigation of select Russian sample bottles from the Sochi Games and afterwards and found that the samples were contaminated and either had mismatched DNA or impossible salt content.

– The toolmarks expert studied a small number of sample bottles from during and after the Sochi Games, again based on Rodchenkov’s suggestions, and determined that most of them had the “marks” suggesting they had been clandestinely opened.

Given the importance of the investigation, and the fact it was presumed to be impartial and objective, it is reasonable to ask some questions: Why is the expert anonymous? How was his evaluation and testing cross-checked and validated?  Why was the Swiss manufacturer of the sample bottles (Berlinger) not involved in the examination and testing? That should have been done for two reasons:

  1. because Berlinger has technical staff who are the most knowledgeable about these urine sample bottles
  2. to assist in correcting any flaw in the design, if it actually exists, to prevent future abuse.

In addition, it is important to note the highly selective nature of this examination. The Sochi Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ samples that were investigated were selected by the person who was said to be at the heart of the corruption.

(10) McLaren distorts the findings of the “toolmarks expert”. On page 103 McLaren says “the forensic testing, which is based on immutable facts, is conclusive… The results of the forensic and laboratory analysis initiated by the IP establish the conspiracy that was perpetrated at the Sochi Games.” However, the toolmarks expert makes no such claims.  The findings in the “Forensic Report” (EDP0902) are much more qualified:

  1. McLaren asserts that “marks” on the inside of the urine sample bottle confirm tampering. However the expert does not say that. Regarding “Type 1 marks”, the expert concluded that “these marks were reproduced and found to be present after screwing the lid on forcefully”. This means that if a user over-tightened the bottle cap trying to insure no urine leakage, it would cause similar marks.
  2. Regarding “Type 2 marks”, the expert found that “If there was manual manipulation of the metal ring and spring steel washer before the lids were screwed on for whatever reason, marks similar to some of the Type 2 marks were reproduced. This could for example result from fingers or cloth being used to wipe the inside of the lid to clean it.”
  3. On page 22 of the “Forensic Report”, the expert concludes with the following warning: “These marks on their  own should not be considered to be conclusive evidence of opening the bottles or attempts to open the bottles ….”. (underlining added).  This is opposite to what McLaren claimed.

Finally, I note the following: If the goal was to discover whether or not there was widespread tampering with sample bottles from one country, then it could be done by examining random sample bottles from many different countries to see if there are telltale marks from only one country. That would also be a strong indicator that the marks were from tampering and not from the incidental causes which the toolmarks expert warned of. This was evidently not done.

Conclusions

It’s clear that there were doping violations by some Russian athletes with collusion and assistance by the Moscow Laboratory Director Rodchenkov and some others. Despite McLaren’s accusations of “state sponsored doping” and an “institutional conspiracy”, he has presented little or no evidence showing this.

If there is clear evidence in the Evidence Disclosure Package, why is it not identified?  What does it say about the integrity and fairness of someone in authority who makes sensational accusations which grab the headlines while knowing the evidence is weak and many of the accused may be innocent? What kind of ethics and “fair play” does this demonstrate?

It seems clear there needs to be an independent and NOT nationally-based testing authority which can implement common standards and prevent doping use, evasion and false accusations.

In closing, I appeal to the leaders of WADA and IOC to please find a way to reduce the politicization of doping in sports and resist the demands of those saying they wish to “protect clean athletes” by taking away the rights of other clean athletes based on national discrimination.

Best regards,

Rick Sterling

Investigative Journalist

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Doping scandal: Putin responds to WADA’s retreat

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | March 3, 2017

Following apparent admission by IOC and WADA that there may not have been a state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russian sport, President in conciliatory comments suggests a way forward.

Russian President Putin, in comments made in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk where he oversaw preparation for the 2019 World Winter Universiade (a student sports meet), set out the Russian response to the admission – reported in a leaked IOC letter – that the claims in the McLaren report are insufficient as evidence against any individual athlete and that Professor McLaren seems to be retreating from his claim that there was a massive state sponsored conspiracy to carry out doping in Russian sport.

Putin’s words were firm but conciliatory, and were in line with what the Russians have been saying all along.

Firstly, it is important to stress that Putin admitted that there has been widespread doping in Russia. This is a point that some people have been resisting, or which they have been seeking to relativise by saying that doping is also widespread in other countries.

The second point is undoubtedly true, and there is no doubt the Russians have been treated differently from others. I question whether the picture would appear much better if the athletes of any other country were subjected to the same sort of relentless investigation to which Russian athletes have been.

The fact nonetheless remains that this is an illegal activity, and it is never an excuse for an illegal activity that there are others also guilty of committing it. Putin and the Russian authorities fully understand this, and they have been saying it all along, ever since the scandal first broke in the autumn of 2015. Putin said it again in his comments in Krasnoyarsk

… we need to acknowledge that there are established and identified cases of doping here, and this is a totally unacceptable situation.

What this means is that our existing anti-doping monitoring system has not worked effectively, and this is our fault, and is something we need to admit and address directly. I hope very much that the Investigative Committee will see the needed investigation through to its completion and will identify all those responsible for this situation.

However Putin’s most interesting comments were about some of the more sensational allegations in McLaren’s report.

First of all, Putin knocked on the head the very idea that there was a state sponsored conspiracy. In doing so he homed in on the words in the leaked IOC letter that appeared to concede the point

We know the latest assessments from the officials at WADA and our colleagues from the IOC, who note that the McLaren Commission had inaccurate translations or inadequate evidence. Let me say again, and we said it repeatedly, that Russia has never had, and I hope never will have, a state system supporting doping. On the contrary, Russia will only combat doping.

Compare this with my own recent comments about the WADA admission in the IOC letter

What is however by far the most interesting thing in the IOC’s letter is that it homes in on the growing doubts that the doping conspiracy in Russian sport which Professor McLaren claims to have uncovered was really state sponsored.  Here is what the IOC says about that

The complexity of the Schmid Commission’s work is considerable since for instance, in his first interim report, Professor McLaren describes a “state sponsored system” whilst in the final full report in December he described an “institutional conspiracy.” The Commission will now have to consider what this change means and which individuals, organisations or government authorities may have been involved.

(bold italics added)

That looks to me like an implicit admission that the evidence points to the doping conspiracy being the work of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of RUSADA, Russia’s formerly WADA approved dope testing lab, rather than anyone in the government.

This is of course exactly the point I made at length in my discussion of Professor McLaren’s second report

Putin also homed in on what is the weakest link in the chain of forensic evidence produced by Professor McLaren: the scratch marks on the sample bottles. Here is what he had to say about that

Of course, and naturally enough, there is this issue of claims regarding scratches of some kind on some of the test samples. We do not understand what kind of evidence can we talk about because when we provided the test samples there were no complaints. If there was a problem with scratches of whatever kind, this should have been noted in the relevant reports, but there was nothing of this sort.

In other words, these samples were stored somewhere, and we cannot be held responsible for the storage conditions.

I have previously discussed the problems with this evidence, if it is indeed evidence at all

… on the crucial question of the illicit opening of the sample bottles, Professor McLaren admits that he has no witness – significantly not even Dr. Rodchenkov – who claims to have seen it done, and therefore has no evidence for how it was supposedly done.  The forensic evidence upon which he relies is purely inferential: the opinion of a single expert as to how it might have been done (not how it was done) based on an already pre-existing assumption that it was done.

As for the scratch marks on the bottles, to my mind they do not prove anything until it is shown that they can have no other cause than the illicit opening of the bottles. That is something that requires far more forensic testing than Professor McLaren has had done, and is an issue about which the opinion of more than one expert is required, and concerning which the opinion of the Swiss manufacturer certainly needs to be sought.

Of course none of this means that what Professor McLaren and the expert allege was done to the bottles didn’t happen, or that the bottles weren’t opened as they say they were.   However it does leave their claims open to challenge, and the case nowhere near proved.

Nonetheless Putin wisely is looking forward, in order to close down the whole affair.

In my discussion of Professor McLaren’s second report I said that the best thing for the Russians to do would be to take on board those criticisms which have been made of them which are valid and to set up an anti-doping system in Russia which is not only as close to fool-proof as any such system can ever be, but which will establish the gold standard for such a system

The way forward now is to put all the damage done by this affair behind, and to concentrate on setting up in Russia the best and most full-proof possible system of testing, which will enable Russia to set the gold standard in this area, and which will make it possible for Russia to be fully reintegrated in world sport with a minimum of embarrassment.

That is exactly the wise course President Putin and the Russians are taking. Here is what he said

As you know, we are putting into place a new anti-doping system. It will be transferred from the Sports Ministry and Government oversight to an independent organisation, as many countries have done, and not in any figurative sense, but quite literally. The laboratory will be located on premises belonging to Moscow State University, and we will help them to obtain the modern equipment, technology and specialists they need. I hope that we will no longer have any swindlers, who organise doping programmes themselves and then flee abroad. I hope that our independent specialists and foreign specialists will help us to develop a strict and effective anti-doping system.

I hope too that Vitaly Smirnov’s commission as a public organisation will continue its work to supervise the anti-doping organisations’ work here in Russia. Of course, we must also work to ensure that doping does not arise in youth and student sport. These young people are just at the start of their sports careers. Let me say once more that we will do everything needed to organise positive, active and effective work with all our partners, including WADA and the International Olympic Committee.

Putin’s words about “swindlers, who organise doping programmes themselves and then flee abroad” refer to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who the Russians accuse of being the mastermind behind the whole doping conspiracy. As I have discussed previously, the wording in the IOC letter suggests that the IOC may also be coming round to that view.

To be clear, the setting up of a new dope testing system does not mean that the Russians are going to abandon the legal claims they are bringing. The innocent athletes who were barred from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the strength of what both the IOC and WADA now recognise was insufficient evidence are in a strong position to press their claims and will surely do so. I would however say that the IOC’s and WADA’s admission that the evidence against these athletes was insufficient almost certainly means these cases will settle out of court, with probably quite large sums of compensation being agreed. My guess is that there are already discussions underway to that effect, which may explain the conciliatory tone of Putin’s remarks.

This remains a deeply unsatisfactory and shameful affair. Regardless of what happens now, Professor McLaren and the Western media, aided and abetted by some irresponsible athletes in the West who ought to have known better, have created an image of Russian sports for the Western public which is probably indelible. I say this because I am sure that the Western media will give virtually no publicity to any formal retractions of Professor McLaren’s claims the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, the IAAF or WADA might make, whilst if any legal proceedings are eventually brought against Dr. Rodchenkov I doubt these will be widely reported either. The Western public will therefore be left with the impression that the allegations against the Russians are true and have been proved.

Beyond that there is the grotesquely discriminatory way in which Russian athletes have been treated, and the indifference to the most basic principles of due process shown by people in the West when the campaign was launched against them. Despite my experience of the decades of negative stereotyping of Russians which takes place in the West, I am still shocked by it.

Nonetheless I suspect that the worst part of this affair is now drawing to a close, enabling Russians to compete on equal terms in international sport once more.

March 4, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment