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Russia faces "toughest sanctions available" for "unprecedented attack" on world sport

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The International Olympic Committee has promised “the toughest sanctions available” after a WADA report found Russia had concealed the positive doping tests of athletes in the run-up to the Sochi Winter games.

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The IOC did not spell out whether it would heed growing calls for Olympic bans already imposed on Russia’s track and field athletes and weightlifters to be extended to all its competitors in Rio.

But IOC President Thomas Bach said the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation had revealed “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games”.

“Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated.”

WADA has urged the IOC to consider banning Russia from the Rio Olympics altogether.

The WADA-backed report confirmed allegations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times that dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.

It said the catalyst for the development of a system to conceal widespread doping had been Russia’s performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, where a country that cherishes its status as a sporting superpower finished 11th, with only three gold medals.

“The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games,” said the report, unveiled in Toronto.

The report was led by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren, who had sat on the independent commission that last year exposed widespread doping and corruption in Russian track and field, leading to its exclusion from international competition.

He said Russia’s Sports Ministry had overseen the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results for years before Sochi.

“The State implemented a simple failsafe strategy,” the report said.

“If all the operational precautions to promote and permit doping by Russian athletes proved to have been ineffective for whatever reason, the laboratory provided a failsafe mechanism.

“The State had the ability to transform a positive analytical result into a negative one by ordering that the analytical process of the Moscow Laboratory be altered.”

In Sochi itself, where international observers were scrutinising the drug tests, positive results could not simply be brushed away, so a system of sample-swapping was put in place with the help of the FSB intelligence service, the report said.

Rodchenkov had spoken of a clandestine night-time operation in which he said staff secretly took urine samples from the lab via a “mouse hole” cut into a wall, and replaced them with clean samples taken from the same athlete months earlier and sometimes manipulated.

McLaren said Rodchenkov and all other witnesses interviewed had been deemed credible, and the report said the investigators “confirm the general veracity of the published information concerning the sample swapping that went on at the Sochi Laboratory during the Sochi Games”.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was mentioned 21 times in McLaren’s 97-page report, was not immediately available for comment.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said officials accused in the report of enabling widespread abuse of performance-enhancing drugs will be suspended for the duration of an investigation.

“Officials named in the commission’s report as direct perpetrators will be temporarily suspended from their duties until the full completion of an investigation,” Putin said in the statement, without specifically identifying such officials.

“However, so that a final decision can be made about the liability of officials, we ask the WADA commission to present more complete and objective information, based on facts, for consideration during the investigation by Russian law enforcement authorities.”

He remained bullish, however, saying: “Now we are witnessing a dangerous relapse of politics’ interference into sports.”

“Yes, formats of such interference have changed but its essence is the same – to make sports an instrument of geopolitical pressure, of forming a negative image of countries and nations. The Olympic movement which is playing a colossal uniting role for the humankind may once again be driven to the brink of a split,” Putin said.

“Accusations against Russian athletes are based on the testimony of one person, a man with a scandalous reputation.”

He emphasised, though, that “there is no room for doping in sports”, calling it “a threat to the health and lives of athletes… it is discrediting of fair sports competition”.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the McLaren Report had concluded, “beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government that goes right to the field of play”.

“Most importantly, our hearts go out to athletes from all over the world who were robbed of their Olympic dreams,” he said.

“Looking forward, we must come together as an international community – comprised of those who truly believe in the spirit of Olympism – to ensure this unprecedented level of criminality never again threatens the sports we cherish.”
-Reuters

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