© Copyright – 2022 – Athletics Illustrated

Apparently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is looking at pathways to return Russian athletes to the Olympic and Paralympic Games again. They must be out of their minds.

War by Russia and supported by Belarus is the main reason for the ban. However, it is not a people’s war. The civilians in Russia and Belarus are not waging the war against Ukraine, the government is. According to the United Nations, the death toll to civilians is nearing 6000. They are innocent victims, this is an illegal and unconscionable attack.

Globally, there is mass opposition toward the Russian incursion into Ukraine.

According to Inside the Games, the IOC told International Federations (IFs) to move any events from the two countries.

But war should not be the reason for the ban.

The reason for Russia’s ban should be due to proven systematic doping and corruption that allegedly has gone on for decades unabated.

Doping was described in great detail in the book The Rodchenkov Affair, written by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov who was a primary and central figure in covering up doping in Sochi during the Winter Olympics and before and after those Games.

It is the Russian government at war and it is the Russian government implementing systematic doping and corruption. It is the Russian leadership who are wanting to win at all costs on the battlefield (which they are not) and on the playing fields. Allowing the athletes to compete is allowing Russian government and leadership to compete. They must be stopped.

In the media

Further to that, there is the book, the Russian Affair, by whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov, a former anti-doping officer and award-winning author David Walsh. Both Russians — Stepanov and Rodchenkov — are in exile in the US.

It wasn’t enough that the Oscar-winning documentary Icarus illustrated the doping issues or that German broadcaster ARD TV and the fine work of investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt made it perfectly clear: doping in Russia is a way of life. It apparently doesn’t matter that the Russians blocked the World Anti-doping Agency access to the Moscow Laboratory’s mainframe computer to manipulate data (about blood values et al).

Apparently, none of this really matters, the IOC seems to want Russia back in international sports. They must be losing their minds in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Russia’s low point: A report by the New York Times published on May 12, 2016, indicated harrowing evidence of Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Allegedly en masse and arranged by the Sports Ministry itself. It was Seppelt who had disclosed the systemic doping in Russian Athletics broadcast in three major TV documentaries in German and English.

Since the ban for systematic doping started (2015), it has been a veritable Keystone Cops play of falling down with various coaches and administrators failing to comply with the rules and roadmap to return-to-competition that was created by the World Anti-doping Agency’s special teams.

Has the IOC forgotten that last year, the 126-member World Athletics Council, voted in favour to continue the Russian Athletics Federation (RAF) suspension? The Council felt that RAF had not met all of the reinstatement requirements. Eighteen delegates voted against the continuation while 34 abstained.

Also, just last year, according to Reuters, Danil Lysenko, the Russian high jumper who was suspended for doping infractions, is blaming Russian officials for his doping. In 2018, he was suspended for three whereabouts failures in a 12-month span, which is equal to a doping infraction. That’s on him.

At the time, the provisional suspension to Lysenko put a strain on Russia’s attempt to gain entry back into the sport by following a number of steps as required by World Athletics — it was a step backward. Was the IOC paying attention?

Senior Russian officials became embroiled in a scheme to forge medical documents and provide false explanations to justify Lysenko’s violations. They got caught, and they went backward some more.

“Of course, I could have said no, but I didn’t,” Lysenko, whose suspension ends in August next year, told Reuters. “I listened to the bosses and decided to do as they said.”

Russian corruption continues

Corruption continues to run rampant in Russia. In a 2021 scandal, news agency Tass reported that Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) anti-doping coordinator Robert Popov was placed under house arrest in connection with an embezzlement case.

Popov, as well as former Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) deputy chairman Gennady Aleshin, were both suspected of “aiding in misappropriation or embezzlement by an organised group or on an especially large scale”, TASS reported.

Connected to the case is Alexander Kravtsov, the head of the Centre of Sports Preparation for Russian national teams. More is to come from this.

Kravtsov, Russia’s Chef de Mission at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, is alleged to have hired people who did not work in any related capacity.

World Athletics continues to keep Russia suspended and unable to compete internationally due to the state-sponsored doping. Their situation was apparently improving, however, the Lysenko case set the shamed country back.

In 2021, the Russian Triathlon Association was banned due to doping.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the Russian doping crisis

Also in Dec. 2020 RusAF narrowly avoided permanent banishment from sport. They had failed to pay several million dollars in fines for delaying a special WADA committee from getting access to the Moscow Laboratory mainframe computer, central to the systematic doping.

By mid-2020, apparently, 61 suspect doping samples had been documented by the investigative team. Allegedly many more have been since.

By April, WADA completed 298 Russian athlete tests.

In June 2020, there was the resignation of the then RusAF President Yevgeny Yurchenko after just six months on the job. The reason? RusAF failed to pay a $6-million fine (of $10-million USD) owed to World Athletics.

The fine was levied in lieu of being expelled altogether from World Athletics due to a long trail of corruption to do with alleged extortion, bribe-taking, drug cover-up, and data manipulation to name a few illegal activities that Russia is accused of.

“I hope that the newly elected head of the All-Russian Athletics Federation will be able to move forward in resolving almost five-year difficulties in relations with World Athletics, and will also ensure that sufficient funding is raised for the development of the Federation,” he said.

Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s Yury Ganus told TASS at the time and the Russian news agency that “all steps taken by the previous executive management at the RusAF led to the fact that he would continue performing as an athlete only after an eight-year period.”

In early June 2020, Alexander Shustov received a four-year ban from the Athletics Integrity Unit, which was held up by CAS after testing positive for a banned substance.

On July 18 2016, Canadian attorney Richard McLaren, retained by WADA to investigate Rodchenkov’s allegations, published a 97-page report covering significant state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Apparently he was limited by a 57-day time frame, during that short window the investigation found corroborating evidence after conducting witness interviews, reviewing thousands of documents, analysis of hard drives, forensic analysis of urine sample collection bottles, and laboratory analysis of individual competitor samples, with “more evidence becoming available by the day.”

In conclusion, the report stated that it was shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia’s Ministry of Sport, the Centre of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia, the Federal Security Service, and the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow had “operated for the protection of doped Russian competitors” within a “state-directed failsafe system” using “the disappearing positive methodology” (DPM) after the country’s poor medal count during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

McLaren stated that urine samples were opened in Sochi in order to swap them “without any evidence to the untrained eye”. The official producer of security bottles used for anti-doping tests, the Berlinger Group, stated, “We have no knowledge of the specifications, the methods or the procedures involved in the tests and experiments conducted by the McLaren Commission.”

According to the McLaren report, the DPM operated from “at least late 2011 to August 2015.” It was used on 643 positive samples, a number that the authors consider “only a minimum” due to limited access to Russian records. The system covered up positive results in a wide range of sports: 

Athletics (139)
Weightlifting (117)
Non-Olympic sports (37)
Paralympic sport (35)
Wrestling (28)
Canoe (27)
Cycling (26)
Skating (24)
Swimming (18)
Ice hockey (14)
Skiing (13)
Football (11)
Rowing (11)
Biathlon (10)
Bobsleigh (8)
Judo (8)
Volleyball (8)
Boxing (7)
Handball (7)
Taekwondo (6)
Fencing (4)
Triathlon (4)
Modern pentathlon (3)
Shooting (3)
Beach volleyball (2)
Curling (2)
Basketball (1)
Sailing (1)
Snowboard (1)
Table tennis (1)
Water polo (1)

There are so many more examples of corruption, doping, and coverups by the Russians that there is not enough forest on planet earth to print the reams of paper required to write the story — and it continues. The IOC needs to take a long look at the pathway and to consider it years and perhaps decades into the future before reinstatement begins.

As Stepanov told Athletics Illustrated, “we don’t call it corruption in Russia, we call it, ‘having an understanding.'”

*With files from previous Athletics Illustrated articles, the New York Times, the McLaren Report and Wikipedia.