By Steven V. Selthoffer, Chief European Columnist – Swimming World Magazine
Köln, GER—German broadcaster ARD aired a 60 minute documentary “Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia produces it’s Winners,” by Hajo Seppelt on Wednesday in a revealing and hard-hitting exposé on the Russian doping system and how Russian sport executives, anti-doping labs, officials and athletes are involved in the doping process. The documentary reveals athletes making secret payoffs, how they avoid testing and remain undetected due to a large international system of sport executives, lab staff and sport officials cooperating in the doping knowledge and supply chain taking advantage of the lack of independent oversight in international athletics and anti-doping.
Part of the Russian doping system documentary is centered around Russian Athletics Federation President and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev among others. These revelations are particularly explosive and dramatic against the backdrop of Russia invading Ukraine at present with Sergey Bubka, Ukraine as UKR National Olympic Committee President and as IAAF President.
The front line of the Russian-Ukraine war has now moved to the board rooms of athletics in Lausanne and the IOC.
Part of the video includes accusations made by 800m runner, Julia Stepanova and her husband Vitali Stepanov who worked for RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. RUSADA was in charge of the doping results for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics with the IOC who shared joint responsibility.
RUSADA and the IOC have avoided answering questions by Swimming World regarding irregularities in doping controls in Sochi. For over 10 months, since the first week of the Sochi Winter Olympics, RUSADA and the IOC have also not answered questions regarding the doping vials, athlete selection, frequency of testing, and other related questions concerning suspicions of anti-doping irregularities in Sochi.
Russian Doping System
Supply Chain Revealed
In the documentary one male athlete lamented on the state of Russian sports, “You cannot achieve your goals unless you dope,” stated Vitali Stepanov. He also names Russian coach Alexei Melnikov as a functionary in the doping supply chain who offered her anabolic steroids.
Team mate and discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina, RUS stated, “Most athletes dope; around 99 percent. If you do it, they (the federation) give you everything. The least detectable the drug, the more expensive it is.”
In another interview with another athlete, Lilyia Shobukhova said that she handed over $550,000 USD to be able to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Shobukhova is currently banned for doping offenses.
Shobukhova stated that she had to hand over the money to Melnikov because he demanded it to ensure that all other officials will allow her to compete.
She also stated that she has documentation that IAAF Treasurer Balakhnichev knew about the entire situation.
Revelations of an extensive, coordinated system
What was most shocking in the documentary was the case that was made for the systematic doping, how extensively and perfectly the whole system fits together. From the guarantees by Russian state government officials controlling the political side, down through the Russian government agencies that control RUSADA, WADA’s approved lab, all interwoven in the sophisticated doping supply chain network, combined also with high level coordination between the Russian sport executives, anti-doping officials, sport federation officials and coaches.
The Russian doping system in some ways mirrors the GDR doping of the 60’s-90’s. Russian coach Oleg Popov stated, “The athlete has no choice. Either you agree and use the illegal substances, or if you don’t you’re out of sport (in Russia).”
“This is an impressive example of how systematic doping is and how extensive it is in Russian sports,” was the analysis shared by the award-winning business newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung after viewing the video. “The allegations will trigger an earthquake.”
WADA founding President, Dick Pound stated, “This is an extremely alarming case.” (ARD).
Last night WADA issued the following press release regarding the revelations, “WADA has seen the German television documentary alleging systematic doping in Russia, and other breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code. WADA will ensure that all matters raised are fully investigated.
WADA has in fact already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations. Insofar as the particular allegations against Russian authorities and others are concerned, these will all be carefully scrutinized and if action is warranted, WADA will take any necessary and appropriate steps under the Code.”
It doesn’t look good for FINA
A scandal of this size will play out over a period of months and years. More revelations will be coming. Russian athletes have already fled the country seeking asylum.
It makes it all the worse for Dr. Julio Maglione, President, FINA that he had already awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin the FINA Order, FINA’s highest honor, who now is not only hosting the FINA 2015 World Championships but, is also simultaneously hosting and supporting the largest systematic, government-sponsored doping scandal in the international sport world.
“I am certain that FINA will now rescind its highest award given to Comrade Putin recently, while he simultaneously presides over the largest doping scandal centrally orchestrated since the GDR days, AND the FINA World Championships in 2015. I mean, look what they did to the convicted doping doctor Lothar Kipke from the GDR….oh, my mistake, FINA still honors him as well. How embarrassing. The International Federation that we all belong to honors Dopers for LIfe. How Amazing.” – John Leonard, Executive Director, American Swimming Coaches Association and World Swimming Coaches Association.