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More Than 1,000 Russian Athletes Involved In Doping Conspiracy, Report Says

Members of the media read through the pages of Richard McLaren's report looking into doping in Russian athletics, ahead of a press conference Friday in central London.
Adrian Dennis
AFP/Getty Images
Members of the media read through the pages of Richard McLaren's report looking into doping in Russian athletics, ahead of a press conference Friday in central London.

An anti-doping report has found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in state-sponsored doping, and that the "institutional conspiracy" extended far beyond previous evidence of cheating at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

The findings, published Friday, were accompanied by more than 1,000 individual documents released to the public as evidence (with athletes' names redacted). Russian officials have responded with "predetermined defiance," Charles Maynes reports for NPR from Moscow, with multiple agencies rejecting the findings as false.

The report is the second and final part of an investigation carried out by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It describes a "systematic and centralised cover up and manipulation of the doping control process."

In July, McLaren issued an initial report that focused on doping at the Sochi Olympics. At the time, he said that a "highly compressed timeline" — the report was researched and published in less than two months, going public shortly before the Rio Olympics — had forced him to be selective in what he analyzed.

The latest report is much broader in scope. It stands by the findings of the first investigation and concludes that systematic cheating — including urine-swapping to pass doping tests — also took place at the London 2012 Olympics, the Universiade Games 2013 and the Moscow IAAF World Championships in 2013.

"The Russian Olympic team corrupted the London Games 2012 on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be fully established," the report states, describing the use of prohibited substances and various efforts to conceal the practice.

"These activities were supported by senior Russian officials, including the Minister and Deputy Minister of Sport, senior and national team coaches, RUSADA, the CSP and the Moscow Laboratory," it continues. "The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play."

WADA President Craig Reedie said in a statement: "The Report, and its evidence published today, shows the scope of subversion; and, focusses on the number of athletes that benefited over a prolonged period of time. ... It is alarming to read that 1,000 Russian athletes — competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sport — can be identified as being involved in, or benefiting from, manipulations to conceal positive doping tests."

WADA says it will provide summaries on all the implicated athletes to the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and other organizations to determine whether further investigation or discipline is warranted.

The IOC said in a statement that the findings "show that there was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general."

The organization says two commissions are already working to prepare appropriate sanctions, and that hundreds of urine samples from Russian athlete will be re-analyzed.

"Russia's Ministry of Sport issued a statement rejecting the doping charges, and the head of a new Kremlin anti-doping commision set up in lieu of the scandals said accusations of state sponsored cheating were simply untrue," Charles Maynes reports for NPR from Moscow. "Several athletes also denounced the report as politicized and anti-Russian. Alexey Voevoda, a 2-time gold medal bobsled champion at the Sochi Games, said the report was 'revenge' for Russia's annexation of Crimea."

The new report says the allegations in both reports are based on physical evidence — including DNA tests that demonstrate urine samples were swapped, and scratches and marks on sample bodies that indicate tampering. "The evidence," it says, "does not depend on verbal testimony to draw a conclusion."

Russian President Vladimir Putin had criticized the first report as being "based on the testimony of one man" — Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Russian anti-doping official who became a whistleblower and was a key source of the report.

Russian runner Yuliya Stepanov and her husband, Vitaly, who worked at an anti-doping lab, have also volunteered information on Russia's doping program.

Various media outlets have reported on state-sponsored Russian doping over the past two years. Key reports included documentaries by German reporter Hajo Seppelt and stories in The New York Times and 60 Minutes.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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