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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

WADA’s Russia doping ban ‘part of ‘New Cold War’ & robs clean athletes of glory’

RT | December 9, 2019

Russia’s ban from global sports is a punishment rife with politics, analysts told RT. Worse still, political decisions can punish clean athletes, who will be denied the honor of competing for their country.

The World Anti-Doping Agency handed down the ban on Monday, after Russia was alleged to have manipulated data in a Moscow anti-doping laboratory. WADA voted to suspend Russia from all major sporting events for four years in response, meaning the Russian flag will not fly at the next two Olympic Games as well as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, should Russia qualify.

Clean athletes, however, will be able to compete, albeit under a neutral flag and with no national anthem.

In the run up to the ban, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) head Travis Tygart had called for even harsher penalties, including a blanket ban on all athletes, even those found to be clean.

The “political element to this cannot be denied,” global affairs analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT. Henningsen sees WADA, like many other international organizations, as biased in favor of its Western members.

[It’s] “about humiliating Russia, it’s about demoralizing their athletes, [and] It’s also about hurting Vladimir Putin.”

“National pride is connected with national sport for any leader of any country,” he added.

Russia’s image will certainly be tarnished by the news, which broke just hours before Putin was due to sit down with French, German, and Ukrainian leaders in Paris, in a bid to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. With the Paris summit being a long-awaited ‘Normandy Format’ meeting – first since 2016 – the stakes are high for all involved.

“It’s bad news for that event,” political analyst Martin McCauley told RT. “The newspapers will concentrate on this and not on the Normandy event.” Likewise, the emergence of the news so close to the summit will likely give ample fodder to journalists quizzing Putin after the meetings conclude.

Those athletes untainted by doping scandals have been “caught up in a war of politics,” McCauley said. Though such athletes will be allowed to compete, standing on the podium without their national colors and celebrating without their national anthem reverberating through the arena will be “devastating,” he said.

“When they get home with a medal, it’s only 90 percent of a medal, because the other competing athletes had their national anthem played, and they had their moment of glory. The Russians are going to be denied that.”

Competing under a neutral flag is a “very small consolation,” Henningsen added. “Even during the Cold War most countries respected the sporting arena as a neutral arena where politics wasn’t really going to contaminate that.”

Athletes typically spend their entire lives training to reach peak performance for one, maybe two, Olympic Games. However, all is not entirely lost for those who were hoping to represent Russia at next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “The Russians can appeal,” McCauley noted, “and one would expect they’d appeal very strongly indeed.”

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) will now decide whether to appeal the ban. Russian parliamentarian and former Olympic speed skater Svetlana Zhurova said she is “100 percent sure” the agency will appeal.

RUSADA has not had its work restricted by the WADA decision. Agency chief Yuri Ganus – a longtime critic of doping in Russia who has acknowledged that the data handed over to WADA was tampered with – said on Monday that “WADA considers our actions to be effective and productive. And we are an example of overcoming the crisis.”

“We will work on finding our way out of the crisis for our sport. We will ensure the compliance of our federations and with the code and the training of our athletes.”

Through appeal and reform, Ganus hopes to make Russian athletics clean again. His mission is one with political payoff too. Henningsen noted the power of international sport to build “person to person diplomacy,” fostering good relations between countries, even when their leaders can’t seem to agree on much else. The positive experiences of fans who traveled to Russia for last year’s World Cup – against the advice of much of the western media – were an example of this, he said.

A thaw on this front of the “New Cold War” would therefore be a welcome development, even if relations elsewhere remain decidedly icy.

December 9, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

WADA is being weaponized to destroy Russians’ dignity

By Andrew Korybko | October 11, 2019

Most of the world remembers the controversy in recent years about Russian athletes allegedly failing to comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) policies, but that scandal still continues to this day after the international organization recently threatened that country’s sportspeople with being banned from next year’s Tokyo Olympics on the same basis. The narrative is that there are supposedly “inconsistencies” with the lab data that Russia submitted to prove its adherence to WADA’s regulations, though that storyline is extremely suspect and also reeks of selective enforcement for political reasons.

To explain, it’s illogical that Russian athletes would continue to use banned substances after the agency globally humiliated them and the country that they represented several years ago on that basis, nor would their coaches and those responsible for them allow “inconsistent” lab results to be given to that international sports body if that was still the case (though it was always questionable to begin with the first time around whether there were actually any violations or not). Every stakeholder therefore has a self-interested reason in ensuring that the testing process proceeds smoothly and without incident, not to cheat the rules while under scrutiny.

Another valid point to make is that other countries’ athletes use questionable medication to treat certain health symptoms that might have actually given them an unfair advantage during competitions. For instance, RT reported last year on how Swedish media alleged that “70 percent of Norwegian medals in Olympic skiing events were won by athletes diagnosed with asthma”, yet those athletes aren’t under WADA’s microscope like Russia’s are. Quite clearly, the agency is only selectively enforcing its standards for what can only be presumed to be political reasons related to the New Cold War.

Russia is one of the US’ chief geopolitical adversaries across the world, and Washington is weaponizing all means at its disposal to wage a Hybrid War against Moscow, one that transcends the traditional definition of war to include intangible and unquantifiable aspects such as the degrading of national dignity. Understanding this, it makes sense why WADA is threatening Russian athletes, since that’s intended to damage their country’s dignity on the world stage as punishment for their government refusing to submit to the US’ foreign policy diktats. As a result, all Russians might be made to suffer.

This strategy isn’t just being carried out for the sake of schadenfreude, but as part of a far-fetched plan to decrease the population’s support of their government. The theory goes that average Russians might eventually be misguided by a forthcoming US-backed infowar campaign to somehow blame their government for this humiliation, which could contribute to increasing anti-government sentiment and then indirectly influence their political preferences in 2024 after President Putin’s final term ends. That idea might sound attractive in Washington think tanks and the halls of Langley, but it’s completely unrealistic in practice.

A supposedly apolitical international organization punishing a population for the disagreements that their government has with another violates all morality and exposes that said body for what it truly would be in that scenario, which is an American proxy organization being weaponized for Hybrid War ends. It doesn’t matter that the consequences of such a decision wouldn’t have any effect on political stability in Russia, but just that it would be very cruel to do to ordinary people who more often than not could care less about international politics and are more interested in patriotically rooting for their country’s team as they compete in Tokyo.

The Olympics are supposed to bring the world together for a few weeks by allowing everyone’s athletes to bask in glory that they deserve for being the best of the best selected to compete in this prestigious event, provided that they earned their place fairly. Singling out Russians for alleged “inconsistencies” while ignoring the much more credible case of Norwegians gaming the system — to say nothing of transsexuals now being allowed to participate, even without undergoing gender reassignment surgery — is a travesty of everything that the Olympics are supposed to stand for and actually degrades the international community’s dignity most of all.

Andrew Korybko is an American political analyst.

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Keep politics out! International bodies should not be used to further anti-Russian agendas

By Neil Clark | RT | November 28, 2018

The recent hysteria over a Russian standing for the presidency of Interpol was only the latest example of how Cold War ideologues are seeking to politicize everything in pursuance of their obsessive anti-Russian crusade.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). And now the election for Interpol president. These international organizations, which do valuable work, should be free from geopolitics. The representatives of some Western countries, I’m afraid, think differently.

The problem, for the US and its closest allies, has been that international bodies don’t always do exactly what they want. Other countries, including horror of horrors Russia, also have a say in them.

That is most undesirable as only the voices of the self-righteous, self-appointed ‘world policemen’ should be heard. Then a geopolitical agenda can be pursued through these hitherto impartial and well-respected organizations.

Let’s take WADA first. World sport needs an anti-doping agency which is independent and will apply the rules and regulations equally to all nations, including, if need be, against the US. But the anti-Russian countries want an anti-doping agency that will single Russia out for special treatment. In July 2016, Reuters revealed how the heads of the US and Canada’s anti-doping bodies had drafted a letter to WADA calling for ALL Russian athletes to be banned from the Rio Olympic Games.

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. They would be accused of playing politics and being terribly unsporting. But it seems it’s OK if Uncle Sam and his allies do it.

It was a similar story with the football World Cup in Russia. That really got the neocons hyperventilating. The process by which FIFA awarded Russia the World Cup had to be ‘illegitimate’. The tournament must be taken away from Russia demanded John McCain and 12 other US Senators.

Russia is a football-loving nation which had never before hosted a World Cup. Its status as host nation was actually long overdue, regardless of one’s views of the policies of the Russian government. But for the Russophobes politics is everything. They never take a break from bear-baiting.

The OPCW has also been affected by the new outlook, whereby everything has to conform to the Western elite’s foreign policy goals.

The UK has pushed (successfully) for a change in the role of the chemical weapons watchdog. Frustrated that the OPCW has, up to now, only been able to say whether or not a chemical weapons attack has taken place, the UK government has managed to politicize the OPCW so that it now will be able to attribute blame for an attack.

We can only imagine the enormous pressure, public and private, that will be put on it to declare ‘guilty’ those who the UK and its allies wish to bomb. “The OPCW is a Titanic which is leaking and has started to sink,” Russian Industry Minister Georgy Kalamanov said. He wasn’t being overly dramatic.

Having ‘done’ the OPCW, the hawks then turned their attentions to Interpol and sabotaging the election of a Russian, Alexander Prokopchuk, as the agency’s president. Prokopchuk was regarded as the frontrunner for the job at the international police agency and rightly so.

He was already Interpol vice-president, the vice-chair for Europe since 2016, and well-respected by his colleagues.

But others were horrified at the prospect of a Russian winning. Financier Bill Browder tweeted a letter from twelve US Senators attacking the candidacy. Unsubstantiated claims were made that Prokopchuk was ex-KGB. If elected he would be ‘Putin’s puppet.’

“This is really quite an extraordinary situation, to find ourselves with the possibility of not just a fox in charge of the hen coop, but actually the assassin in charge of the murder investigation,” fumed MP Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the UK’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee and a former member of the Intelligence Corps.

There were threats to set up a rival organization to Interpol if Prokopchuk was elected.

But the smear campaign against him succeeded. Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin press secretary, spoke of “interference in the electoral process of an international organization”. Of course, as it was interference from the UK and the US it didn’t really count. Again, just imagine the uproar if Russian parliamentarians tried to block the election of a British or US candidate.

As if the interference was not enough, we’ve now got Browder calling for countries such as Canada to help kick Russia out of Interpol altogether.

If that sounds familiar, then think back to John McCain’s calls for a ‘League of Democracies’ (i.e. the US and approved allies), to get round Russia’s UNSC veto.

Russia’s great crime is not ‘human rights’ abuses, but the fact that it has effectively blocked the Western elite’s plans for regime change in Syria and has sought to reclaim its self-respect at home and abroad since the disastrous days of the oligarch-friendly Boris Yeltsin.

As a response, the war against Russia, and we have to call it that, has been waged on a number of fronts. Neocon think tanks and commentators urge Russian media, such as RT, to be taken off air and for more sanctions to be imposed.

They call for increased military buildup on Russia’s borders under the guise of ‘protecting European security’. They urge European nations to pull out of beneficial gas pipeline projects with Russia and buy US LNG instead. They cheer on the most anti-Russian forces in Ukraine.

They also seek to get Russia banned or sidelined in international organizations. Which is inimical to the whole notion of internationalism. As Mary Dejevsky wrote last week in the Independent, “what happened over the Interpol presidency should not be dismissed so lightly. It raises questions that deserve answers – questions that may not even be asked, now that a result has been achieved that is deemed satisfactory by the vocal Western world.”

Bodies that only include the US and its allies, or only follow the geopolitical agendas of certain countries, cannot be accepted as the norm. We need to hear all voices and not just the loudest ones.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Western media silent as Rodchenkov’s Russian doping claims fail to stand up in court

RT | April 28, 2018

Russian officials plan to sue Grigory Rodchenkov, whose testimony played a key part in the country’s Olympic bans, after a sports court rejected his claims. But most believe it’s too late to reverse the impact of the doping saga.

The scandal over Olympic doping has been running since 2014, and most of the allegations have been known for years. What’s changed?

In a landmark ruling in February, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the highest legal authority in such cases, reversed the life bans of 28 Russian sportsmen and gave them back their medals, many of them from the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

But it was only this week that a 160-page summary of the session exposed exactly how the allegations that led to the exclusion of entire Russian teams in various sports from Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 failed to stand up to legal scrutiny.

Who failed to convince?

Between 2005 and 2015, Grigory Rodchenkov headed Moscow’s anti-doping testing lab before resigning in the wake of the scandal and eloping to the US, where his words laid the foundation for the portrayal of “state-sponsored” doping in Russia involving athletes, coaches, and officials at all levels. He remains in an American witness protection program and testified via Skype “behind a screen, which concealed the entirety of his upper body save for his forearms and hands” according to CAS.

He maintained that there was a “Sochi plan” designed to pump Russian athletes with performance-enhancing drugs and then swap any contaminated samples for pre-stored urine during the 2014 Games. He also described that he was the inventor of the Duchess Cocktail, a powerful mix of PEDs allegedly distributed to a list of Russian athletes. Many were later excluded from competing on the basis of the Duchess list.

However, when cross-examined, Rodchenkov admitted that he “never: (a) distributed the Duchess Cocktail; (b) seen an athlete take the Duchess Cocktail; (c) witnessed instructions being given to athletes and coaches to use the Duchess Cocktail; (d) seen an athlete give a clean urine sample; or (e) seen an athlete tamper with a doping sample.” He also admitted that no test of the effectiveness of the Duchess cocktail was ever conducted, and when asked about its exact make-up, which has been a matter of some contention, he “stated that he needed five minutes to explain, and therefore refrained from doing so.”

He also repeated claims that a team of officials, nicknamed “Magicians,” had developed a technique for opening tamper-proof sample bottles in order to manipulate them and clear Russian athletes, but added that he personally “never observed first hand any bottles being opened or de-capped” and did not know the “precise method” used by them.

How did the panel respond to Rodchenkov?

The exiled official turned out to be a star witness for the Russian appellants in the case. In its conclusion, it said that his assertion of the guilt of Alexander Legkov, the Sochi gold-winning skier who led the appeal, constituted a “bare assertion which is uncorroborated by any contemporaneous documentary evidence.” On the use of Duchess by a specific athlete, which a specific official reportedly told Rodchenkov about, the panel ruled that it is “hearsay” of “very limited” value. As to his claims of a Sochi plan, ahead of which clean urine samples were delivered to him, CAS stated that the witness’s words were “not corroborated by any further evidence.”

Which other testimony casts doubt on the accusations against Russian athletes?

Richard McLaren, the former head of WADA and author of the eponymous report, whose list of names were used to ban hundreds of competitors, freely admitted that their inclusion did not “mean that they committed an anti-doping rule violation,” and that he was “merely asked to identify those who may have benefited from the systems.” The Canadian professor added that his report was, in any case, “just the starting point for further work” and was severely restricted by budgetary and time constraints.

In view of questions over Rodchenkov, McLaren was asked if his report was, in essence, based on his single testimony. The expert objected, saying that he sought to “corroborate everything” and explained that the Russian scientist’s evidence had been confirmed by “four individuals who provided information on condition that their identities would remain confidential.”

What effect has the publication of the court documents had in Russia?

An outburst of righteous fury.

“Rodchenkov has done his dark deed. We have suffered colossal damage,” said renowned skater and coach Irina Rodnina, one of those namechecked in the fugitive’s accusations. “Since these claims have surfaced we have tried to play by the rules against those without rules.”

“Rodchenkov lied about doping in our country, which was to be proved. I recommend that a commission is assembled that would gather all false publications about Russian athletes in the Western media, and sue them for defamation,” tweeted Igor Lebedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Duma.

“It’s clear Rodchenkov is mixing up his stories, and his new testimony is evidence that the previous ones were fabrications,” said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary.

What has been the reaction in the West?

A polite silence. Aside from specialist websites writing about Olympic sport, no major Western outlet has covered the story.

This is particularly telling in view of the fact that the entire doping scandal was not started by investigators, but German documentary makers from ARD, who managed to create the biggest Olympics upheaval since the fall of the Soviet Union with the help of little more than interviews with two other runaway Russian insiders, the Stepanovs.

Since then, there has been a consistent barrage of accusations, all of them reported without question within the wider context of Moscow’s new image of an international rogue state, from Crimea to the US voting booths to the running track.

Just a fortnight ago, Rodchenkov gave an interview to a Norwegian TV station wearing a ski mask and a balaclava, and his words were spread verbatim by dozens of outlets from the New York Times to Fox News.

Only last month, hundreds of millions around the world tuned in to watch Icarus, a film in which he was portrayed as a heroic whistleblower, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary.

The officials have been similarly reticent.

When the original ruling was published, IOC chief Thomas Bach stepped in to say that it was “extremely disappointing and surprising” and demanded that CAS reform itself.

Meanwhile, the American anti-doping agency USADA, which earlier said that the February ruling had “sabotaged the integrity of the Games” despite not being at the CAS hearing and added that “the whole mess stinks” and that “the nightmare for clean athletes continues,” has not been quick to retract its statements or turn away from Rodchenkov.

In any case, Russia’s anti-doping agency remains under suspension, without accreditation to enter its own testing centers, and although the country will be allowed to compete under its own flag at Tokyo 2020, several of its teams will have limited allocations.

What about the athletes whose names have been cleared?

Legkov told Russian television how he felt when he was forced to miss the Olympics this year despite being cleared, because the IOC chose not to invite any athletes whose names had been linked to doping scandals, regardless of guilt.

“I was preparing for Pyeongchang like a madman, I give it my all. I had better results in tests than even those ahead of Sochi. In a moment all that was ruined,” said the skier.

“No one was listening to us. We insisted on our innocence right from the start. But we lost those years of our careers. We trained our whole lives to be able to do this,” Maxim Vylegzhanin, who won three silver medals at Sochi and had them restored by the same decision this year, told RT.

What next?

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Russia “defend[s] clean athletes,” while former sports minister and hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov said that “now we have a chance of winning our cases in court,” as long as “there is a firm position, and facts to back it up.” The Russian Luge Federation and several individuals say that they will launch lawsuits, which may mention Rodchenkov by name.

“It’s evident that McLaren just took Rodchenkov’s words at face value. The CAS decision confirms that now. The guilt of the athletes, if it was present, should have been determined with evidence. This did not happen. We await more legal proceedings,” said Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov.

But several top officials say it is too little, too late, not just for those sportspeople who missed the last Olympics, but for Russian sports as a whole.

“This will change nothing,” said Nikolay Durmanov, the ex-chief of the Russian anti-doping agency. “Yes we can enjoy some moral satisfaction, but in the eyes of the world Russian sport has been painted a rich black color, and there is nothing we can do to wash that reputational stain off this generation. This was an information war waged against us.”

April 28, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

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