The handling of this case by the Saransk training centre as well as members of Russian Athletics has so far been to lie, cover-up and manipulate information. I believe I make a case here for the first time that can argue that corruption exists within Russian Athletics.
Please read this and share it around. We need to pressure the IAAF and WADA to act.
Tweet the link to the IAAF and WADA with the hashtag #banchegin.
*You need to click on the photos to read the captions/ see full image*
**I will be constantly updating this as new information comes in. Check the bottom of the post for recent updates**
While this has been incredibly alarming to the bulk of the athletics community it came as no surprise to the walkers. Russia has dominated race walk for many years and the state of Mordovia has acted as the factory within which a long line of Olympic and World medalists have been bred. Saransk, the capital of Mordovia has a Race Walk Training Centre where these top athletes live and train. The head coach of this centre is one Viktor Chegin. Now this is where things start to get interesting, Chegin has had 18 walkers banned while part of his centre. A full list can be seen here.
On top of the athletes that have publicly failed tests Chegin has a history ripe with peculiar actions. For example, in 2008 Valeriy Borchin won gold in the 20km walk despite weeks earlier it being announced that he had failed a test for EPO. This would have been Borchin's second offence and would have resulted in a life-time ban. Then in 2013, with the World Championships at home in Moscow athletes that had wild-card spots (i.e. automatic selection) Olga Kaniskina, Borchin and Sergey Bakulin didn't compete. And one last piece, after Sergey Kirdyapkin's Olympic victory in 2012 I remember reading somewhere where Chegin said he would take two years off to recover before coming back (unfortunately I can't find that link, so consider it hearsay)...but two years? That's convenient!
Alright so you get the picture now, you have a Russian system that may be systematically doping and covering it up and the most successful Russian program has a terrible past with banned athletes and other suspicious activity... Doesn't add up well.
Now fast forward to December 30, 2014. The venue is Saransk, the meet is the Mordovia Winter Walking Cup, an indoor race with several race walk races for all ages. This meet is also a memorial meet for German Skurygin, a Chegin athlete who won the World Champs in 1999 only to have it stripped for doping... he died of a heart attack, age 45. So the irony is set, a ton of drug cheats racing in an event honouring a life that was cut short due because of doping (if we had video of the race, it would certainly have Benny Hill playing in the background). The initial photos from this race (Found here- as of Jan 13th) pictured Elena Lashmanova racing along side Vera Sokolova, Anisya Kirdyapkina and Elmira Alembekova. Along with these photos were 100s of similar photos of other athletes in different races. Additionally there were photos of Lashmanova standing on the top of the podium with Alembekova on the 2nd rung.
Alright so issue #1: The Bid Numbers:
The easiest issue to workout here is the bib numbers. When you look at the results you can see that the bib numbers correspond with the numbers worn in the photos with Lashmanova and don't match those new photos posted yesterday: Thats Alembekova (33); Sokolova (38) and Kirdyapkina (41). Translated results for top 3 here:
Another issue with the Russians saying that those photos are from 2012 is the fact that many of the shoes they are wearing just came out in 2014. In the above photo you can see that Alembkova, Kirdyapkina and the 2nd and 3rd girls back on the right are wearing new Asics models.
You can look through all of the racing photos from the original album and see that these shoes pop up all over the place. Which would be impossible if they were from 2012 as they are claiming. With that alone it is impossible to say exactly when this meet took place, but one thing is for sure is that it wasn't in 2012!
So another issue is figuring out what is going on with the shots of the podium. It doesn't really matter because it's pretty clear now that Lashmanova was competing, but it is still worth looking at. In the original album all the athletes were receiving their awards in casual clothing. Then over a week later additional photos are added that show the Open event medalists receiving their medals in their warm up gear. You can see that here with the first 4 photos being the 2 different podium shots for the Open men and women (with the supposed 2012 ones on the left and the supposed 2014 ones on the right) and the slideshow being a bunch of the other podium shots that were included in the album (I'm including them in here for fear that the album gets deleted)
Side note: The Jacket Lashmanova is wearing was the Podium Gear for 2013 and wasn't available in 2012.
- In the "2012" podium photos the 3 people handing out awards are the exact same and wearing the exact same things as the 2014 people (as can be seen more clearly below)
- In the first photo of the slide show you see a girl getting her award with 3 people in the background. Those same 3 people show up in the background of subsequent photos that are supposedly from 2012
- Behind the second place finisher in many of the photos you can see 2 hurdles in the background near the pillar. Those are also visible in the "2012 podium" but not in the newer images.
- Now you could say then that ALL of the podium shots are from 2012 except for the new ones posted. The problem with that is that many of them are again wearing shoes on the podium that didnt exist in 2012. For example the 7th photo (boy in the "Patrol" shirt) you can see the Hyperspeed 6's as well as the hurdles in the background.
- Ivanov won 2 event categories and is pictured again in the same casual clothes (3rd last picture), but without the claim that it was taken in "2012"
- One last point that is more just strange is that in all the other podium photos it is quite "busy" behind the scene. I mean there were 300+ people racing so that makes sense. But in the photos that are claimed to be the 2014 ones, it is oddly quite... It almost looks staged.
One last issue that was brought to my attention from this hilarious article here. Apparently the Saransk centre did put some effort into trying to cover their tracks (which almost makes this more pathetic, because they have not done a good job). But they uploaded an album of photos to the old version of the Saransk training centre website and dated them Jan 1, 2013. These photos are mixed in which photos from the ACTUAL meet in 2012. They did a decent job... except for the shoe issue, and everything else already discussed. But they also missed something quite important. The photos that were added to this album just recently don't have any views... whereas the photos that have been there for 2 years have 100+ as you can see here:
What Happens Next?
The next logical question is, what happens now? The IAAF have been informed and they have passed this along to RUSADA. Should RUSADA fail to deal with this accordingly (and lets face it, they will) then IAAF will have to take the issue to CAS. What happens to Lashmanova is pretty clear cut as per WADA rules 10.12.3:
It looks like Ekaterina Medvedeva might have to suffer the same fate as Lashmanova. Currently serving a ban that is to end in June of this year Medvedeva can be seen here competing at the European Race Walk Cup in 2013 on the left followed by a photo of her receiving a kiss from boyfriend Mikhail Ryzhov before the race and a photo of her competing in the Dec 30, 2014 race in Saransk.
It also appears that Sergey Morozov may be working with the centre. Morozov was banned for life in 2012 but that doesn't seem to stop him sticking around. It should be noted that with a ban you aren't allowed to work in any role with any club or athletes. At the 2014 World Race Walk Cup in Taicang, China Morozov was spotted at the Russian Teams drinks station with an official accreditation but nothing was ever done about that. Hopefully now something will be done.
There is definitely something fishy going on with the mens side of things to. The people in the proper podium photos are different (except for Ivanov) then in the potentially staged photos. The results list the top 3 as #46 Ivanov; #51 Ryzhov; and #55 Dennis Strelkov. These are the three that appear on the potentially staged podium. However the original podium shows Ivanov with Sergey Bakulin and a of yet unidentified athlete. The big question is why would they need to do this. Bakulin isn't under an official ban. Suspicion arises then that potentially Bakulin has been serving a "ban" but it is being kept quiet by the Russian federation so that he wouldn't lose any results. It should be noted that Bakulin hasn't competed since 2012. This is merely 1 possible explanation. The real reason is unknown. If anyone knows who that is on the 3rd rung of the podium originally or who #58 in the picture is it would be helpful (I'm bad with faces).
*Update: Number #58 is Pavel Parshin (thanks for the tip Marcel!). And there is a good chance that that is Rhyzov on the 3rd rung of the podium in the first photo (again, not good with faces).
The old Saransk Training Centre website is where those photos from 2014 were posted into an old album from the 2012 race in order for the Russians to claim the photos were from that race (see the page views issue). Another piece of evidence to debunk those photos is the results write up about that race, also dated Jan 01/ 2013. The results write up include Borchin, Kaniskina, Kanyakin, and many others who aren't pictured in that album. The following was translated by google chrome:
A bunch of photos (some that we have already seen) have appeared in an album on the Official Saransk Centre website: http://tsop-rm.ru/photoalbum/249/#
These photos come with the logo of the centre in the bottom corner. Some of these photos contain pictures of the younger athletes racing and there are also photos of the top athletes racing (in accordance to the results- i.e. no Lashmanova or Bakulin and Alembekova's number is wrong). As well as photos of the podium. What is striking is that with the younger kids you can see quite a few people in the stands watching. However in the photos of the top athletes there is no one to be seen (except a couple of RUNNERS on the track). This provides a bit more evidence that these photos may have been staged after the fact to try and cover up. If this is the case then the athletes are totally complicit in this behaviour and should be held accountable. The slideshow below is just an assortment of photos from the album (in case it gets deleted).
On Elmira Alembekova's VK page (Russian version of Facebook) there are 2 photos that stand out. One posted Dec30 shows her and Ivanov in their casual clothes with their medals (Alembekova's being silver) and then on Jan11 a photo in their new podium gear. I've been told that the first photo was originally on her instagram account but has since been deleted. These photos once again show some discrepancy between fact and what the Russians are saying. The question now has to become where these new racing and podium photos came from but it is looking more and more like they were staged.
Things have started to gain some traction and the IAAF have confirmed they are investigating.
The International Association of Athletics Federations told The Associated Press by email that the organization "has been informed by multiple sources that one or more athletes may have competed in a Russian race last month while under sanction."
"The IAAF medical and anti-doping department are investigating those allegations," it said.
Meanwhile the head of the Russian Athletics Federation Valentin Balakhnichev has been quoted as saying,
"Nothing good awaits her," he told Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport. "We're very sorry that this situation has arisen."
Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Balakhnichev hasn't seen this blog as the above article goes on to say,
"- Valentin V., in the photo posted in the Italian edition, clearly shows how Lashmanova is on track, her other athletes, ie photo clearly made during the competition, the second photo of her award . The question is: Where and when was it?
- We have created a special commission headed by the first vice-president of the federation Zelichenko Vadim Borisovich, which deals with this issue.We want to gather all the data, because it is not clear the origin of these photos. We now obtain all the documents to the sports bodies of Mordovia."
I think we all eagerly await what kind of excuses they can come up with. The article also notes dismay at why Lashmanova would do such a thing. We can't lose sight of the fact that she would have very little say in this. The coaches and officials at the centre need to be held accountable, having Lashmanova's ban extended simply isn't good enough in this case.
Balakhnichev has been speaking again and he has had some interesting things to say. You can see the article here.
He started off saying that he was not responsible for the Russian walkers taking part in official events. 2 things here, he is admitting that they took part (VICTORY!) and he is calling them official events. He went on to say the competition was not an officially sanctioned event...(hypocrite). While many are thinking he said this as a way to make sure they aren't punished, I suspect he is saying this to make sure HE doesn't get punished. I do believe that they are conceding defeat and trying to limit the damage. But in admittance of the fact that they did take part that proves that the Saransk Centre tried to cover it up with putting new photos into old albums and claiming the race was from 2012. This is an ADRV (anti-doping rule violation) and at the very least the head of the centre and whoever doctored the albums should be banned. In this case that would be Olga Kaniskina who became head of the centre on Dec 26 (well she almost made it 1 month!). Furthermore those staged photos that were taken on or around Jan10, to try and cover up their errors need to be addressed. Anyone who took part in these photos (Chegin and the other 2 coaches; as well as all 6 athletes) need to be held accountable for trying to cover up an ADRV. I think Balakhnichev is trying to limit the damage to just the centre and not let it get any further.
There is also no reason to believe that this wasn't an officially sanctioned meet. Most meets that have 300+ participants and are a championships are sanctioned. Remember this meet was called the Mordovian Winter Walking Cup and an article written about it claims that it was a qualifying meet for the Russian Champs. But it hardly matters.
It's ironic that Balakhnichev's comments were mostly trying to keep himself out of it, but by mentioning that Bakulin should not have competing opens up a whole new cover up that he CLEARLY knew about. Well played Mr. Balakhnichev, you are making my job quite easy! While the Russian Federation may not have had anything to do with this race specifically, we now know that they are trying to cover up something, we just don't know how far that reaches yet.
Finally, even if the event didn't have sanction that doesn't mean an ADRV hasn't occurred. Lets look back at the 2015 WADA Code. On page 75, under rule 10.12.1:
What is most relevant to this discussion is this,
"No athlete or other person who has been declared ineligible, may, during the period of ineligibility, participate in any capacity or activity...authorized or organized by any Signatory, Signatory's member organization, or a club or other member organization of a Signatory's member organization..."
The fact that this was organized by the Saransk centre is enough for it to be an ADRV.
Furthermore it should be noted that even practicing with the team while on a ban is an ADRV... Which is good information for everyone to have:
The IAAF has confirmed that Bakulin has been serving a doping ban since 2012 due to irregularities in his bio passport. The impact of this news should not be underestimated. This shows that the IAAF has, on at least one occasion, kept doping bans secret. The question is whether IAAF has to disclose these doping bans or whether that is up to the National Anti-Doping Organization, in this case RUSADA. From the WADA 2015 code it seems that public disclosure is up to RUSADA in this case. RUSADA is required to pass the information along to the IAAF and WADA but it remains unclear whether IAAF had any requirement to release this information once RUSADA failed to do so. In any case this is a big mistake by RUSADA, WADA and the IAAF.
Other athletes who haven't competed since 2012 include: Olga Kaniskina and Valery Borchin (who both had auto entry into Worlds but didn't compete). This recent news definitely casts a shadow of a doubt on the eligibility of Kirdyapkin, Kaniskina and Borchin.
I made a small mistake in my last update. Noting that those athletes haven't competed since 2012. They haven't competed outside of Russia since 2012, however they did race Jan 31, 2013 in Samara Province Cup. That distinction hardly seems to matter as we have clearly seen that doping bans are no hinderance to competing at home for Russians.
But more importantly we still need to know why this was kept secret. But here is some food for thought: Both Igor Yerokhin and Sergey Morozov have received life time bans for their second offences. Both of them incidentally had their results stripped going back to February 25, 2011. That is the day before they both competed at the Russian Winter Race Walking Championships, a meet that Bakulin also competed at. Or take Stanislav Emelyanov who received a bio passport ban this year and lost all his results going back to the day before he won European Champs in 2010 (another meet where Bakulin competed). If Bakulin's bio passport abnormalities can traced back to either of these meets it would mean losing his 5th place in London 2012, his 4th place at the World Cup in 2012, his Gold from World Champs in 2011 and his Bronze from European champs in 2010 (if dating back that far)... so you could see why they would want to keep it quiet. Hopefully the IAAF provides full transparency with this issue so we can find out who was keeping the ban a secret, and what their motives were.
Finally here is a video from those Russian Winter Walking Champs in 2013. Just because.
Finally PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Share this around. We need to fight hard on this.
And a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this. You know who you are, I won't publicly drag you into this mess