Road To The Olympic Games

Rio Olympic 2016·Analysis

Damning Russian doping report puts pressure on IOC

After another devastating investigation into Russia's state-run doping program, the International Olympic Committee ought to send a strong message by banning the country from the Rio Games, writes Jamie Strashin

Many calling for blanket ban from Rio Games

Russia's participation in the Rio Olympics hangs in the balance after the release of findings from the latest investigation into the country's state-sponsored doping program. (Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)

By Jamie Strashin

In the rich history of international sports cheating, Russia has raised the bar.

Not content with anything but winning results, senior officials conspired to ensure Russians ended up on the podium. At any cost. 

If cheating was a sport, this would be a gold-medal performance — but one that deserves swift punishment. The entire Russian team must be banned from the upcoming Rio Olympics. There is simply no other option.

In releasing the findings Monday of an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Canadian lawyer and professor Richard McLaren provides a litany of evidence that at times veers into the absurd. He outlines two separate state-sponsored Russian doping projects aimed at winning medals and duping international regulators.

After a disappointing 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Russian officials developed what the report calls the "disappearing positive methodology." It lasted for the next four-plus years, covering athletes in 28 Olympic sports. As the report details, the plan was hatched at the highest levels of the Russian government.

Save/quarantine

In a nutshell, here's how it worked:

Every time a Russian athlete tested positive, the Deputy Minister of Sport would immediately be informed through a network of Russian officials. An order would then come back from the Minister to either "save" or "quarantine" the result. If the order was "save," then Moscow lab technicians were required to report the sample as negative to WADA and also falsify the results within the lab's own records. If the order was "quarantine," then the real positive result would be sent to WADA. As the report outlines, "the athlete benefited from the cover-up determined and directed by the Deputy Minister of Sport and could continue to compete dirty."

McLaren was only able to scrutinize a "thin slice of tests." But of the 577 positive samples analyzed, 312 positive results were held back. Most of those came from track and field and wrestling, but many other sports such as swimming and rowing were also involved.

Russian officials clearly expected the plan to yield results. McLaren points out that "athletes that were ordered 'save' tended to be medal winners or athletes of promise. Foreign athletes or Russian athletes deemed unpromising were ordered 'quarantine' by the Ministry of Sport."

Russian officials were so confident of the "inability of outsiders to detect what is going on" that the save/quarantine program continued into 2015, even after it came under international scrutiny.

Secret police slept at lab

For the 2014 Sochi Olympics, with so many international observers present, Russian officials realized they would have to raise their cheating game.  And who better to help than the FSB (formerly the KGB), which developed a method for secretly removing the caps of urine sample bottles. This allowed Russian officials to swap out dirty urine with previously collected clean urine. How did they do this? In the middle of the night, of course, using a "mouse hole" they created in the wall of the laboratory.

How involved were the Russian secret police? Consider this: The FSB had working and sleeping quarters on the fourth floor of the Sochi lab. Also, McLaren identified at least one FSB officer who had access to the Sochi lab as an accredited person under the guise of being a sewage and plumbing employee of the building maintenance contractor.

All of this actually happened. The urine swapping, the mouse hole, the fake test results. As McLaren points out, "the FSB role in the doping program is not interference and control but rather assistance in arranging and operating the state-sponsored doping system."

Breathtaking and brazen. And an affront to any clean athlete who ever lined up against a Russian aided by state-sponsored doping.

The next step should be a simple one. There should be no more time or energy given to the idea that the Russians are willing or able to change. The Russian team should be told to stay home from Rio. 

WADA backs such ban, and so do American and Canadian officials. Many athletes are obviously on board. So what will the International Olympic Committee do?

Just after the report was released, IOC President Thomas Bach called its findings "a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games." So the Russians were immediately banned, right?  Not quite. That decision from the IOC will come Tuesday.

There is only one right response.

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