Saturday, December 17, 2016

Doping scandal: "Russian orienteering athletes participation in IOF events is not restricted and is welcomed", the IOF says

Part two of Richard McLaren's report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) into doping problems in Russian sport, which was released on 9th December, has clarified the conclusions reached in part one, which was made public in July. Analyzed the new release, IOF keeps its statement on the case and “has full confidence in Russian orienteering athletes and IOF event organizers”.

A second investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency has revealed that more than 1,000 athletes were involved in a state-run doping system in Russia. The findings come in the second part of an investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who announced the results of his inquiry in London on Friday. His second report – which comes after WADA extended his mandate in July – confirmed the findings of the first report while revealing more about a system of covering up tests that was refined over time.

“The results of the forensic and laboratory analysis initiated by my team established the conspiracy that was perpetrated between 2011 and 2015,” McLaren said. “It is impossible to know how deep and how far back a conspiracy goes. For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived.” Most notably, he said more than 1,000 Russian Olympians and Paralympians – in summer and winter sports – were identified “as being involved in or benefiting from manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.”

How did it start?

Yuliya Stepanova, a Russian middle-distance runner, together with her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, who worked for Russia’s anti-doping agency from 2008 to 2011, spoke out in 2014 about a sophisticated, state-run doping system within Russia. The couple’s detailed accusations set off a series of investigations and additional whistle-blower accounts that have roiled global sports. She told the German public broadcaster ARD that she had been extorted and pressured to take drugs, and she provided recordings suggesting she was far from alone. The Stepanovs fled Russia in 2014, and they are living in the United States. The report also follows on charges made by Grigory Rodchenkov, a laboratory director in Sochi. Rodchenkov told the New York Times that he was ordered to replace tainted urine samples provided by top Russian competitors with clean ones.

The World Anti-Doping Agency was created in 1999 through a collective initiative led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Its mandate is to promote, co-ordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. It is headquartered in Montreal with regional offices in Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. It receives half of its funding from the IOC and the rest from various national governments. The agency is responsible for the World Anti-Doping Code, a document that aims to harmonize anti-doping regulations in all sports and countries. It has been adopted by more than 600 sports organizations as well as the IOC and International Paralympic Committee. The code embodies an annually updated list of prohibited substances. The agency has 34 WADA-accredited labs across the globe to conduct human doping-control sample analyses. It also operates a centralized Web-based Anti-Doping Administration & Management System that stores each athlete’s lab results, whereabouts, therapeutic-use exemptions and rule violations history.

Orienteering, a close-knit family

Immediately following the report, WADA notified the International Federations that they would be receiving gathered evidence for any cases pertaining to athletes within their testing jurisdiction. The respective International Federations would then take over the cases for potential disciplinary actions. On Friday, 16th December, the International Orienteering Federation made clear its position, sustaining its full confidence in both Russian orienteering athletes and Russian IOF event organizers regarding these matters: “Based upon the information received from WADA, the IOF concludes that there is currently no evidence which indicates that orienteering is involved in systematic doping in Russia as reported by the McLaren report, and therefore sees no reason to change the statements made in July/August 2016. Russian orienteering athletes participation in IOF events is not restricted and is welcomed”, can be read at the “IOF Statement regarding the McLaren report part 2” [HERE].

On Monday, 12th December, the International Orienteering Federation had already made public the Anti-Doping Report 2016, making clear that “during 2016, a total of 102 In-Competition Doping Controls were performed by the IOF. The tests were spread over 10 different IOF Major Events in SkiO, FootO, MTBO and TrailO. A total of 84 individual athletes were tested, representing 22 different Nationalities. All but one of these tests produced a negative result. This one test produced an Adverse Analytical Finding for a substance which was covered by a Therapeutic Use Exemption granted to the athlete in question by the IOF Medical Commission, and is therefore not regarded as an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.”

WSOC 2017 in Krasnoyarsk is out of risk

The possibility of withdrawing Krasnoyarsk from the World Ski Orienteering Championships' organization left the Ski Orienteering family on a verge of a nervous breakdown. Also here, the IOF statement is quite clear: “IOF Events planned to be organized in Russia will be completed as planned, and applications for future events from organizers in Russia are welcomed by the IOF. This decision means that the currently planned World Ski Orienteering Championships in Krasnoyarsk, Russia 7th -12th March, 2017 will go ahead as planned.” On Facebook, the American Alexandra Jospe's expressed her satisfaction by the way IOF is dealing with the case: “I really appreciate the IOF doing everything it can to make this a fair sport. You are not facing an easy decision here, and hopefully whatever decision is made is not met with Internet-venom. Thank you for your work!”, she said.

Looking on the subject also on Facebook, the Former European and World Champion in Ski Orienteering, the Russian Tatiana Rvacheva, goes even further: “I think that the only thing that saves our sport from doping in Russia is that we are not an Olympic sport. That's why athletes do orienteering, only because they really love it, not because of money and something else. During all my sport career I was really proud of our international sport-family and our sport, because in Orienteering we don't have doping, we can enjoy and win without it. All members from Russian national team are training separately, we have never been part of the system. I am pretty sure that McLaren report is a half truth and there are a lot of politics, but I hope that this report will initiate great changes in all Russian sport, and government will allocate money for healthy way of life and opportunities to do sport, not only for professional sport. I hope that this situation will change mind of big amount of coaches and athletes who think about which doping is more efficient but don't work too much to find efficient methods of training. But the main thing for us is that McLaren report is far away from the Orienteering World, really far away. I hope we remain the same family with our principals of fair play, our love to what we are doing. And I'm sure in Krasnoyarsk everything will be in high level with fair winners. With a great love to our sport.”

Joaquim Margarido

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