Last week the Russian Athletics Federation took a huge hit with the news that 3 banned athletes competed while on their ban. Subsequent attempts to cover this up only led to further unraveling and more violations coming to light. This specific incident was isolated to race walk but is indicative of the larger problem within Russia. It is now more important than ever for the athletics community to come together and make a stand for clean sport.
So here I am, reaching out to the global athletics community, asking all the athletes, coaches, and fans out there to take a stand for clean sport and speak out against what is going on in Russia (and while you're at it, Kenya, Turkey and any other countries that have no regard for anti-doping standards). United we can make a difference.
This morning a bombshell dropped with news that in addition to Bakulin, 4 more Olympic/ World Championship medalists have been banned. They include Olga Kaniskina, Valery Borchin, Sergey Kirdyapkin and Vladimir Kanyakin. These 5 athletes have been banned since late 2012 and as it stands right now will lose some of their World Champs medals, but keep their Olympic Medals.
This is how their bans breakdown:
Basically what has happened is that RUSADA has annulled results from certain points but kept other results in place. Personally I have never seen this with a bio passport case where an athlete can lose results between Point A and B as well as between C and D but not between B and C. IAAF or WADA can now appeal the ban for longer sanctions.
One of the more interesting points in all of this is how the case has been handled between the IAAF and RUSADA, quote from AP article:
"Khabriev [RUSADA General Director] said the delay was because the IAAF passed the cases to the Russian athletics federation for adjudication, but he said the federation lacked the resources to deal with "the specificity of biological passport cases."
Khabriev said processing of the cases resumed only this summer after the agency started to investigate the Russian race-walking training center for multiple doping violations. During the course of that investigation, he said the agency obtained the biological passport data and began its own analysis."
What it seems like is that the IAAF passed this on to the Russian Athletics Federation who did nothing with it for nearly 2 years, before RUSADA opened up a separate investigation into the Saransk Training Centre and came across this data. If this is true then both the IAAF and Russian Athletics Federation are at fault of negligence at the least. It's also strange why the IAAF would hand this off to the Russians when it is their mandate to investigate Bio Passport stuff themselves (as per IAAF Anti Doping Regulations- Section 6.6). This certainly isn't the last we've heard about this side of the story.
A few more interesting revelations to come out of today's news:
- Sergey Kirdyapkin was also pictured competing in the Dec 30 race. His ban was set to end early 2016 to make him still eligible for Rio. Is WADA regulations are followed his ban should now extend to 2018, leaving him out of Rio
- Olga Kaniskina was announced on Dec 26th as the new president of the Saransk Race Walking Centre. This was pretty big news. The IAAF new that she was banned and didn't do anything to stop this. It also clearly shows how little value the Russians place on doping bans.
- IAAF/ WADA regulations seem to suggest that all results from the first rule violation are to be stripped. It is unclear to me how this might relate to bio passport cases but it presents a strong argument that these selective sanctions are inappropriate
- Additionally there are many athletes here who will be financially affected by these results. It should be noted that repayment of prize money is only made IF the ineligible athlete pays back his winnings. However nothing in the code precludes clean athletes from taking appropriate legal action. It would be interesting to see how this would work in this case and if there could be the potentially for a class-action type suit against these 5 athletes/ the Saransk centre. Any lawyers out there have good insights on this?
Comment on the 2 year delay from RUSADA: http://www.rusada.ru/press/news/kommentarii-generalnogo-direktora-np-rusada-o-diskvalifikatsii-pyaterykh-rossiiskikh-le-0
Minister of Sport, Mutko, comments on possibility of criminal action against Viktor Chegin: http://itar-tass.com/sport/1709462
A couple of weeks ago photos surfaced online of a race which featured Elena Lashmanova. This race happened on Dec 30, 2014. Lashmanova, the World and Olympic Champion is currently serving a 2 year doping ban that expires February 2016. Her participation in this race is a clear violation of WADA Code section 10.12.1. And under section 10.12.3 the penalty for such participation is a ban equal in length to the original ban to added to the end of the existing ban. Originally Lashmanova would have been eligible to compete in Rio in 2016, however if her ban is extended she will miss out. (Note these photos have since been deleted, but can be seen in my last post).
To try and avoid this fate, Dmitry Fedotov, the organizer for this event and an employee of the Saransk training centre (a governmentally funded athletics centre) claimed that these photos featuring Lashmanova were actually from 2012. I was quick to point out the impossibility of this due to the fact that they were wearing shoes that weren't available in 2012 and from there a number of people across the globe who were following the story pointed out many other inconsistencies that made this impossible.
At the same time a number of new photos showed up claiming to be from the 2014 race/ podium that didn't feature a number of the athletes. There were also any number of reasons why these photos couldn't have been from the Dec 30 race. The original photos featuring Lashmanova then showed up in an old album on the Saransk website to try and show that they were from 2012. Again we showed how this wasn't the case. It became pretty evident that the Saransk centre were trying to cover up this infraction and that those new photos that appeared were staged, after the fact, to fit the narrative they were trying to write.
When we looked through the photos again we noticed that the 2012 World Junior Champion Ekaterina Medvedeva was also competing (currently serving a 2 year ban that ends June 2015) and that Sergey Bakulin (the 2011 World Champion over 50km) appeared on the podium in the original photographs but not in the new staged photos. The only thing was, up until this point, nothing had ever been said about Bakulin serving a ban (although there had been some suspicions).
The first big step forward came Jan16 when President of the Russian Athletics Federation Valentin Balahnichev confirmed that Lashmanova, Medvedeva and Bakulin had no right to be competing in the competition. This was the first time anything official had been said about Bakulin and then the IAAF confirmed that Bakulin has been provisionally suspended since December 2012 in relation to abnormalities in his biological passport (a record of blood values that over time can be used to detect blood doping).
Where do we go next?
The easiest step is to simply extend the bans of Medvedeva and Lashmanova as per WADA Code section 10.12.3.
It then becomes a bit more complicated. First of all we need to know why the Bakulin case has been kept quiet for over 2 years. Bio passport cases can take a long time to gather information but I have never heard of a case taking 2 years. It is interesting to note that 2 of Bakulin's teammates who are currently serving life bans had their results stripped from Feb25, 2011. It is likely that they have a blood profile for Bakulin from the same day and if his ban was extended back this far he would lose his World Champs Gold medal and his Olympic 5th place and World Cup 4th place. In October it was announced that Andrey Ruzavin had been provisionally suspended due to a bio passport case. So provisional bans aren't confidential. Why was the Bakulin case kept secret? Who bears the responsibility to announce this, was it the IAAF, WADA or RUSADA? And what other information is being kept quiet?
The next thing that needs to be dealt with is the blatant attempted coverup by Russia. The Saransk centre is a national training centre that reportedly receives $2 million in funding. They've clearly tried to cover up that an ADRV took place, which lends itself to the question, how many times has this happened before? This isn't the only violation the centre has to its name. Sergey Morozov who is currently serving a life time ban appeared in photos from the Dec race in what looks like a coaching role. He was also pictured at the 2014 World Cup of Walking with an official team accreditation. Finally, he is actually listed as a coach on the Saransk training centre's website. These kind of flagrant violations act to show that doping in Russia isn't viewed as an problem. If you are banned it simply means you can't compete internationally. You still get to train, receive funding and are still viewed as a champion. In fact on the Saransk centre's webpage, their "about me" section lists German Skurygin as the world champion in 1999 even though he lost that title because of a doping ban.
Handing out doping bans to the athletes is clearly ineffective in Russia. In this case the entire Saransk centre needs to be sanctioned, starting with the president of the centre, Olga Kaniskina, the coach, Viktor Chegin, and the staff responsible for manipulating the photographs. It should also be determined how much fault the other athletes that appeared in the staged photographs have. This is an attempt to cover up an ADRV and should be punished as such. Those athletes are Ivanov, Rhyzov, Strelkov, Alembekova, Sokolova and Kirdyapkina.
If even some of the allegations from the ARD German Documentary can be proven (allegations of systematic doping) then the sanction has to go farther than just the centre. It is well within the IAAFs right to hand down a sanction to the entire Russian Athletics Federation given the number of violations and attempted coverups. These rights can be found under section 14.7 of the IAAF Constitution.
This issue hasn't gained as much publicity and outrage as it should have. Many people don't seem to care because it is happening in race walk. It has to be remembered though that the implications here are much bigger as this case is a microcosm of what is going on across Russia. This centre has produced many world and Olympic champions and these athletes are viewed as hero's in the state of Mordovia. Imagine if the Nike Oregon Project head coach, Alberto Salazar had coached 23 athletes that had served drug bans and was still coaching. And now imagine that NOP didn't receive it's funding from Nike but rather received government funds... say for example that the US Postal Service was sponsoring NOP... Now this would be a big story wouldn't it? This is no different. (Note: I am in no way implicating NOP in doping)
So many clean athletes have lost out on hearing their anthem played while standing atop the podium; minor medals; spots in finals; fulfilling lifelong dreams; becoming role models and many other things due to these cheats. It may be too late for those athletes to hear their anthem in a full stadium but if we, the global athletics community, can band together in saying no more, in taking a stand for clean sport... then maybe, just maybe we can help ensure that the next athlete who rises to the top of the podium is doing so with a clean conscious.