It has long been suspected that Russian athletes used performance-enhancing drugs. But the allegations published Monday claim that Russia’s FSB—the successor to the KGB—teamed up with state apparatchiks to intimidate and bribe officials into covering up a plot to help Russian athletes win Olympic medals.
Supposedly independent drug-testing officials were bugged, intimidated and even infiltrated by FSB agents disguised as lab technicians according to the report, which Russian sports officials refute.
Richard Pound, the former president of WADA who wrote the report, said Russia should be banned from the 2018 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He added that Russia finished third in the medal table in London thanks to an influx of athletes who should not have been allowed to take part.
The stunning allegations raise questions over Russia’s fitness to compete in any international sport just three years before they are due to host the World Cup. The World Cup final will be held at the Luzhniki Stadium, formerly known as the Central Lenin Stadium, just 15 minutes’ drive from FSB headquarters.
“It would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities,” the report claimed. “The Olympic Games in London were, in a sense, sabotaged by the admission of athletes who should have not been competing.”
“There is no reason to believe that athletics is the only sport in Russia to have been affected.”
The FSB, which was once run by Vladimir Putin, was only one branch of the alleged conspiracy. The report also claims: the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, ordered drug test results to be altered; Moscow city council operated a shadow drug testing lab; and the independent Russian testers accepted bribes to cover up any failed tests.
Whistleblowers in Russia told WADA investigators that their phone calls were taped, their offices were bugged and they were forced to hold regular meetings with senior figures within the brutal security service. These weekly summits with an agent thought to be called Evgeniy Blotkin were said to be necessary so that the FSB could check in on the “mood of WADA.”
During the Winter Olympics in Sochi last year, the FSB’s intervention was said to have been even more blatant with agents pretending to be laboratory staff.
“We had some guys pretending to be engineers in the lab but actually they were from the federal security service, let’s call it the new KGB; FSB,” said one mole. WADA did not find conclusive evidence that athletes, who should have been banned, were able to compete in Sochi.
Many of the drug tests on Russia never make it as far as the official laboratories. WADA says there is an obscure secondary facility on the outskirts of Moscow where samples from athletes are likely pre-screened before they are sent on for official testing if they do not show the presence of performance enhancing drugs.
The report claims that the Russian anti-doping agency and Russian athletics federation must be aware of this shadow facility. “It is not credible to believe” that they didn’t, the report claims.
If a positive test does get as far as the accredited WADA lab in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov, the lab director, was the next hurdle. The report claims that he is an “an aider and abettor of the doping activities… at the heart of the positive drug test cover-up.”
After one failed test he allegedly accepted a cash payment to make the sample disappear, and when he discovered that WADA was en route to Moscow to audit his work he personally ordered the destruction of almost 1,500 tests.
Pound, speaking at the publication of the report, said the systematic drug cheating “may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system.”
He said there was no hard evidence to link the government or the Kremlin to the massive plot but suggested there were no other viable explanations. “I don’t think there’s any other possible conclusion,” he said.
During WADA’s investigation recorded phone conversations they uncovered included slang terms for a range of steroids from “EQ” (equipoise) to “Winny” (winstrol). It is also believed that stimulants and blood doping measures are commonly used by athletes.
Mutko, the sports minister since 2008, denied the allegations and claimed that WADA has no authority to ban Russia from competing at any level. He is also a member of FIFA’s beleaguered executive committee and leads the 2018 World Cup organizing committee. There have been numerous allegations of corruption in the process which secured the World Cup for Russia.
He was interviewed by WADA in the same luxury hotel in Switzerland where authorities executed a dawn raid on FIFA officials after an FBI investing into systemic corruption in the sport of soccer.
Interpol will coordinate a global investigation into allegations of widespread doping and cover-ups in Russia and beyond after a the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was accused of corruption last week.
The new IAAF boss, former athlete Sebastian Coe, said he would seek approval from the IAAF council to impose unprecedented sanctions against Russian Athletic Federation. “We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport,” he said.
As well as sanctions against Russia, WADA has recommended the lifetime bans of five Russian athletes, including ones on Olympic champion Mariya Savinova-Farnosova and bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova.