A report on Russian doping due out this week is expected to include details about the country’s sports ministry telling its drug-testing officials which positive tests to report and which to conceal. If those details do, indeed, show up in the report, the leader of the U.S. anti-doping effort says nothing short of removing the Russian flag from this summer’s Olympics would suffice.
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told The Associated Press he would support the same sort of action for all Russian sports that track’s governing body, the IAAF, took regarding the country’s track team: It barred the team but gave a small number of athletes who could prove they were clean a chance to compete under a neutral flag.
“If it’s proven true, and there’s been intentional subversion of the system by the Russian government … the only outcome is they can’t participate in these Olympic Games under that country’s flag,” Tygart said.
The World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned an investigation, being headed by Richard McLaren, into Russian doping following a New York Times story in May that detailed a state-run system that helped athletes get away with cheating and win medals at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The McLaren report is due Friday, with public release set for next Monday.
An earlier investigation, headed by former WADA chairman Dick Pound, looked into Russian doping inside the track team; the McLaren investigation is expected to delve into all sports.
In June, based on information from Pound’s report and its own follow-up, the IAAF barred Russia’s track team from competing in the Olympics after deciding it had not moved aggressively enough on widespread reforms.
In announcing the decision, the IAAF issued a report that included preliminary findings from McLaren stating evidence showed a “mandatory state-directed manipulation of laboratory analytical results operating within” the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013.
The preliminary findings also said Russia’s “Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which of its adverse findings it could report to WADA, and which it had to cover up.”
If those preliminary findings show up in the full report, and turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, it would represent “an unprecedented level of criminality,” Tygart said.
Tygart previewed the findings to leaders of USA Track and Field at a meeting during Olympic Trials last weekend. There, Tygart said, “what we see now is what happened in East Germany” in the 1970s and ’80s, when doping in the Eastern Bloc went virtually unchecked.
He told USATF leaders: “You have to send a message to states that corrupt the Games. I don’t want to pre-judge the report but indications are that that’s what’s going to be in there.”
USADA chairman Edwin Moses, the gold-medal-winning and world-record-setting hurdler from the 1970s and ’80s, reiterated that point to the USATF.
“If an athlete is going to get sanctioned for two, four, eight years, then certainly the same should happen for any federation or agency or administrators who are involved,” he said.
Shortly after the Times report came out, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today saying that if allegations in the Times story were true, the IOC would “react with its record of proven zero-tolerance policy, not only with regard to individual athletes, but to all their entourage within its reach.”
“Should there be evidence of an organized system contaminating other sports, the international federations and the IOC would have to make the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice,” Bach wrote.
On July 21, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will rule on the eligibility of 68 Russian track athletes who claim they should be able to compete despite the IAAF ban. Still undecided is whether the IOC will allow cleared Russian athletes to compete as neutral, or under the Russian flag.
If the McLaren report is as damning as expected, the IOC and international leaders in the 27 other Summer Olympic sports will have to come up with plans on similar issues on a limited timeframe: Friday marks the three-week countdown to the Rio Games.
Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, said he had full confidence in the leadership of his sport’s international federation to handle the situation correctly.
“The international federation has a significant responsibility to do everything in its power to make sure that happens,” Bender said. “If you start making exceptions and compromising positions there, it weakens the statement that doping isn’t tolerated.”