WADA ‘Has Names Of Suspicious Athletes’; What Russia Ban Means For Swimming

The fight for clean sport

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Compliance Review Committee (CRC) has the names of all suspicious athletes in the Moscow Laboratory database, which is said to be manipulated before being handed over to the agency’s investigators in January 2019.

That was the stark message from Jonathan Taylor, the WADA CRC chair, today to all Russian athletes as they contemplate having to prove their “innocence” as one of the measures in a four-year ban imposed on Russia by WADA.

Eligibility of Russians for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and other events under a banner of neutrality relies on them proving their innocence. For those with no file or doping record, the process may well be straightforward.

After the WADA Executive Committee endorsed a CRC recommendation to ban Russia from hosting and competing in major international sporting events for the next four years, Taylor stated:

“WADA now has the names of all suspicious athletes in the LIMS [Laboratory Information Management System] database, and thanks to the painstakingly forensic nature of the investigation, this includes the athletes whose data was manipulated or even deleted, including the 145 athletes within WADA’s target group of most suspicious athletes but also others beyond that target group.”

The official added that while he understand the WADA Athletes Committee‘s calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes, the CRC unanimously agreed that “those who could prove their innocence should not be punished,” noting that he was pleased that the WADA Executive Committee had agreed with this. He added:

“While being tough on the authorities, this recommendation avoids punishing the innocent and instead stands up for the rights of clean athletes everywhere. If an athlete from Russia can prove that they were not involved in the institutionalised doping program, that their data were not part of the manipulation, that they were subject to adequate testing prior to the event in question, and that they fulfil any other strict conditions to be determined, they will be allowed to compete.”

Swimming World Coverage Of The WADA Move On Russia:

What Does It Mean For Swimming?

The immediate effect of the ban on Russia is that the European Swimming League (LEN) and FINA must both pick up the phone to Kazan and any in Russia slated to host international events – and talk cancellation, pending any Russia appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Among events affected are the 2021 European Short-Course Championships and the FINA World Cup drafted for October 2-4 in Kazan next year. How that plays out in the news of the past weekend alone:


The Kazan Pool, host of the 2015 World Championships and scheduled for four FINA events in 2020 – all of which may now have to be cancelled- Photo Courtesy: Aleksandr Safronov/FINA Kazan2015

Other FINA events affected in 2020 (alone0 include the following that Kazan is slated to host:

  • Diving Work Series in March
  • Synchro World Series in April
  • High Diving World Cup in July

There is  speculation that WADA is already back-tracking when out comes to what constitutes a “Major Event”, because Taylor is quoted as saying he did not think a UEFA Cup round constituted a “Major Event”.

However, the WADA Code is very clear:

  • an International Event is a competition where [FINA etc] is the ruling body for the Event or appoints the technical officials for the Event.”
  • Major Event Organizations: The continental associations of National Olympic Committees and other international multi- sport organizations that function as the ruling body for any continental, regional or other International Event.

All the above events, FINA and LEN fit into that categorisation. Beyond that, FINA itself describes the World Cup in what can be interpreted, without linking it to “Major Event Organisations”, as the somewhat nebulous term “Major Event”.

As one senior official who asked not to be named put it today: “The Cup offers the biggest prizes in the sport for individual athletes. The Cup is a gathering point for funders, sponsors, equipment makers and organisers: the Cup is a meeting point in the financial ‘business’  of the sport of swimming. In that wider ‘business’ of sport, that’s where funding is found for all sorts of things. Perhaps some of it even ends up paying for the people who bring doping to the sport. All of those big events are relevant to sanctions if sanctions [are to] mean anything.”

vladimir-salnikov-world-championships (2)

Vladimir Salnikov – Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva


Russian delegates, such as Vladimir Salnikov, on FINA, LEN and other  federation boards, commissions and committees may not attend international events. Since those events often coincide with Congresses and major decision-making moments, technically, Russian delegates should not take part. It remains to be seen whether that actually happens.


It is unclear what the decision and knowledge in the hands of WADA and its CRC mean for swimming. Events outlined in investigative reports of 2015 and 2016 related to the exclusion of Russian swimmers from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (before legal challenge returned them to the fray) have cropped up again in more recent reports related to the manipulated data.

No athlete names nor sports have been named by WADA. As such we cannot say for certain whether Russian swimmers may be affected by the latest decisions.  What we can do is look back at the day of their 2016 ban, to before that and to their reinstatement, in order to remind ourselves how it all played out.

Below is the background on the ban on Russia, December 9, 2019, with emphasis on its potential implication for swimming. Given the history below, it remains to be seen what today’s WADA decision will actually mean in practice; what CAS may have to say should it find itself in the middle; what the IOC and the likes of FINA will do this time when presented with the evidence that WADA has placed in the public domain and the evidence it is yet to reveal.

The sequence of events below add up to swimming as a sport that was not dopers-free at Rio 2016: more than a final-full of swimmers walked to their blocks towing doping records. Other athletes resorted to what they saw as the only form of protest left open to them shy of boycott:  they booed and jeered; they made the likes of Yuliya Efimova and Sun Yang  the most booed and jeered swimmers in Olympic history.

Could it all happen again at Tokyo 2020? Time and events will tell. The backdrop:

Doping & McLaren-Related Events In Russian Swimming

Yuliya Efimova of Russia on her way winning in the women’s 200m Breaststroke Final during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 26 July 2019.

Yuliya Efimova – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Back in July 2016, the world media reported that Yuliya Efimova*, Natalia Lovtcova**, Anastasia Krapivina* (Marathon Swimming), Mikhail Dovgalyuk*, had been barred from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, as a result of previous doping positives, while Nikita Lobintsev, Vladimir Morozov and Daria K. Ustinova* would also be barred from the Games, as swimmers named in the wake of the WADA IP – McLaren – Report. [One asterisk indicates one doping suspension to the swimmer’s name; two indicates two doping suspensions to that athlete’s name – all would end up racing in Rio, including Lovtcova, with two previous WADA-Code infractions].

The McLaren report listed a wave of ‘disappeared’ test results, some of which are believed to form a part of the data that has been subject to manipulation that led to today’s four-year ban on Russia.

The names and judgments on the Russian swimmers were contained in a FINA statement in which the international swimming federation backed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russia. Those linked to any wrongdoing, said the IOC, should be barred. FINA agreed.

The list of those barred from Rio made up the bulk of all Russian medal hopes. Three were based overseas, Efimova, Morozov and Lobintsev having trained at the University of Southern California and the Trojan program of coach Dave Salo.

Home-based world junior champion Daria Ustinova, meanwhile, tested positive for a banned substance when she was 14. She received a warning. In 2016, at 18, she was named in the IP report.  Those who, as coaches, doctors or officials linked to her program, who may have  abused a 14-year-old athlete were not named.

The stats in the McLaren Report - a graphic run in The Guardian and far and wide across a world watching and waiting for the names of those whose tests were 'disappeared'

The disappeared positives – McLaren

FINA set up an “ad hoc commission” to look into further evidence that would determine the “status of the Russian Swimming Federation” and other swimmers. In the meantime, all samples from every Russian swimmer at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan last year were to be retested.

The specifics of the cases of Morozov, Lobintsev and Ustinova were unknown. Speculation included suggestions that some samples were  given at the Universiade of 2013 but some problematic results may have been held back; that positive results might have been registered as negative; or that the swimmers tested positive in the official IOC retesting of London and Beijing Olympic drug samples. None of that speculation has been proven.

Morozov and Lobintsev competed at the 2013 Universiade, Ustinova did not. Her positive test when she was 14 occurred at national championships in 2012, while 2013 produced nine new doping cases in Russian swimming, three of them FINA catches that brought Russia to the brink of a whole-nations ban (four strikes by international testers within a year required).

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko would later be banned for life by WADA before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rescinded the lifetime ban in favour of lesser sanctions that formed part of penalties imposed on Russia . In 2015, events led him to give warning to his countrymen and women on the way to a home World Swimming Championships in Kazan, that Russia sport was on the brink and could not afford any further upset.

FINA’s statement at the time included:

“In the meantime, the IP report already clearly establishes that the anti-doping rules were not properly applied and notably that a number of samples collected from swimmers were not correctly reported in accordance with FINA DC Rules.”

Questions flowed in 2016 after Morozov and Ustinova were left off the Russian Swimming Federation’s list of swimmers eligible for the Russian Olympic Trials’ back in January. Did it already know the truth of what was to unfold months later?

Scrutiny of Russian swimming was intense in 2015-16, not least because of two EPO positives in 2009 that were never reported to WADA by the nation’s swimming federation and the circumstances, including obfuscation and a lack of answers (from Russia but also FINA), in the lead up to suspensions for two other leading Russian swimmers in 2015, namely Yana Martynova* and Vitalina Simonova*.

Those who sought answers included the swimmers  who raced against the Russians barred from Rio 2016 in July before their reinstatement after legal argument. Those specific Russian swimmers had raced to a combined career total of 39 titles out of 88 medals in international waters, European juniors upwards:

  • Olympic Games: 1 silver, 3 bronze
  • World Championships (long-course):  4 gold, 9 silver, 5 bronze
  • World Champs (short-course): 4 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze
  • European Championships: 6 gold, 7 silver, 3 bronze
  • Euro short-course championships: 13 gold, 8 silver, 2 bronze
  • World Junior Championships: 3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
  • European Championships: 9 gold

Russia, by July 2016, had more than 25 swimmers on the list of those deemed to have fallen foul of anti-doping rules in one way or another in the preceding decade. China and Brazil were the other two nations with appalling records at the time but Russia topped the league of doping cases on the books of a single nation.

The positive tests of four of those under the spotlight in 2016 were:

  • FINA Case: Yuliya Efimova – DC 2.1 – 7-keto DHEA OOCT
    California out of competition test, October 13 [Term: 31-Oct-13 – 28-Feb-14]
  • National Federation Case: Anastasia Krapivina – DC 2.1 – Methylhexaneamine Russian Swimming Cup, April 13 [Terms: 30-Apr-13 – 30-Sep-13]
  • National Federation Case: Mikhail Dovgaluk – DC 2.1 – Methylhexaneamine Russian Junior Swimming Championships, June 13 [Term: 3-Jul-13 – 3-Jul-14]
  • National Federation Case: Natalia Lovtsova – DC 2.1 – Methylhexaneamine
    Russian National Swimming Championships, November 12 [Term: 30-Nov-12 – 30-May-15] Second offence.

Daria K. Ustinova was barred on the basis of the IP report but also has this on her record:

  • National Federation Case: Daria K. Ustinova – DC 2.1 – Tuaminoheptane Russian National Swimming Championships November 12 [Warning, owing to age – 14]

When A Repeat Offender Makes It To Olympic Waters

Lovtcova’s story cut to the heart of why Russia had been regarded with suspicion by the wider swimming world.

When Lovtcova fell foul of anti-doping rules for a second time, for Methylhexaneamine, she was handed a two-and-a-half-year suspension. Somewhere along the way, Russia reduced that penalty to two years. The reduction was never recorded on the FINA case file, Lovtcova’s penalty still recorded by FINA as the full term handed down last year when the swimmer reappeared in international racing for the first time in April, at a meet in Italy, a month out from the Russian nationals in May, both events before her suspension was supposed to have ended.

The explanation: Russia had reduced her penalty to two years. The convenience in all of that was clear: she returned just in time to qualify for nationals and then, at nationals, for a home World Championships in Kazan.

In Russia, her story that she drank from a bottle containing banned substances belonging to another (who was subsequently banned fornix years as a repeat offender), was believed by some. Beyond Russia, skepticism, putting it politely, reigns.

Lovtsova’s second FINA ban ended on May 30, 2015; Russia made it possible for a repeat offender to make it back to racing in time for a home world titles.

And when she did make her nationals comeback in 2015, she was faster than  ever, clearly having worked through her suspension period: there was a 54.1 win in the 100m freestyle, a maiden voyage inside 59 in the 100m butterfly semis to 58.2 and a 25.43 in the 50m free heats 0.01sec shy of the lifetime best she had set in Milan on her international comeback a month earlier.

Play True - but they didn't: Natalia Lovtsova, top, and the teammate she accuses, Ksenia Moskvina

Play True – but they didn’t: Natalia Lovtsova, top, and the teammate she accuses, Ksenia Moskvina

Lovtsova told the Sport-Express newspaper in Russia that teammate Ksenia Moskvina “secretly” put Methylhexaneamine in her own drinking bottle. Lovtsova and Ekaterina Andreeva had apparently forgotten their drink bottles that day in training and so they took a sip from Moskvina’s bottle. And, voila, two positive tests. Andreeeva got 18 months, Lovtsova, as a second-time offender 2.5 years.

The extra year was designed for purpose: to reflect “repeat offender”. Softness and lenience prevailed.

Five days before their group positive test, Moskvina had been a ‘no-show’ for anti-doping testers for a third time and was banned for a year. That was Nov 25, 2012. A year later, it was revealed that RUSADA had imposed a six-year ban on Moskvina as a repeat offender for a positive test for Methylhexaneamine on November 18, 2012 during competition.

The FINA Case is filed as follows:

  • Doping Offence – Kseniya Moskvina (RUS)
  • On November 18, 2012, a swimmer Kseniya Moskvina (RUS) was tested positive to the substance Methylhexaneamine (Class S.6 Stimulants) following a doping control test conducted with the occasion of the Russian National Swimming Championships in Volgograd.
  • The Russian Swimming Federation, taking into consideration that it was the second violation of anti-doping rules by Kseniya Moskvina, imposed a sanction of 6 years’ ineligibility on the athlete starting on November 26, 2013 – after the termination of the first period of ineligibility.

Moskvina was barred until the end of 2018 and never made it back to the sport. Against that backdrop, Lovtsova has come out with explanations for her own positive tests: for the first, for morphine in 2009, she claims to be innocent; for the second offence she claims to have taken a sip from the drink bottle of a training partner.

Then she was barred from the Olympic Games. And then, she was reinstated, FINA allowing a twice-banned swimmer to take to her blocks in Rio.

In 2015, as Kazan prepared to hoist the World Championships, FINA removed all previous doping case files form the public domain., arguing that it was unfair to keep spent sanctions in the public domain for reasons of ‘fairness’. That decision removed the ability of observers in the sport, including athletes and coaches, to know if a swimmer previously barred from doping was back in and racing in the next lane. That decision removed the ability of the media to report the facts of a swimmer’s history.

The FINA July 2016 statement in full:

FINA acknowledges and supports the IOC’s position in respect of the participation of clean Russian athletes to the Olympic Games in Rio.

The WADA Independent Person (“McLaren”) report has shown that anti-doping rules, i.e. the FINA Doping Control (DC) Rules and the WADA Code were not correctly implemented in Russia, i.e. within the jurisdiction of the Russian Swimming Federation.

The exact implication for the Russian Swimming Federation is still to be clarified. For this purpose, the matter has been forwarded to an ad hoc commission, which will have to investigate. The Commission will notably have to consider any further information to be received from the continuing IP investigation.

In the meantime, the IP report already clearly establishes that the anti-doping rules were not properly applied and notably that a number of samples collected from swimmers were not correctly reported in accordance with FINA DC Rules.

In this context and as a decision made as an emergency in the context of Rio 2016, and in application of art. C 17.14.8, to protect the integrity of sport and the clean athletes, the FINA Bureau has decided that it will subject the eligibility of Russian athletes to specific additional criteria, such criteria being consistent with the IOC’s requirements published on July 24, 2016:

• First, no athlete corresponding to the samples mentioned in the IP Report will be declared eligible.

• Secondly, every Russian athlete’s entry will be analysed in respect of doping tests conducted either by FINA and/or other NADOs and not analysed in Russia. The FINA Doping Control Review Board will conduct a review and issue a recommendation in respect to whether Russian athletes were subject to a reliable anti-doping scrutiny, for a decision to be made by the FINA Executive.

• FINA has noted the requirement that the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) shall not enter any athlete having been already sanctioned. Accordingly, no such athlete will be declared eligible.

The above measure applies to the Russian Swimming Federation. As an immediate effect of the above mentioned criteria, seven swimmers are not eligible to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games:

Yuliya Efimova and Dr. Homayun Gharavi in warm up at world titles last year - photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

Yuliya Efimova and Dr. Homayun Gharavi in warm up at world titles in 2015 – photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

Athletes withdrawn by the ROC:

– Mikhail Dovgalyuk
– Yulia Efimova
– Natalia Lovtcova
– Anastasia Krapivina (Marathon Swimming)

Russian pace-setter Vladimir Morozov - can he get back to 2013 form and grasp a medal? - photo by Craig Lord

Vladimir Morozov by Craig Lord

Athletes appearing in the WADA IP Report:

– Nikita Lobintsev
– Vladimir Morozov
– Daria Ustinova

There is no indication in the IP report that athletes of Russian Synchronised Swimming Federation, Russian Diving Federation and Russian Water Polo would be implicated.

Finally, after the publication of the WADA IP Report, FINA has decided to re-test all the samples of Russian athletes collected at the Kazan 2015 FINA World Championships. After the conclusion of this competition, these samples were transferred and are now stored at the WADA-accredited laboratory of Barcelona (ESP).

August 4, 2016 – Development 1

Vladimir Morozov and Nikita Lobintsev, two of the Russian swimmers barred from the Olympics by FINA following IOC instruction in the wake of the WADA IP McLaren Report, are cleared to race, according to FINA.

The news was broken by a Russian lawyer days before but at the time FINA denied that there had been any change in circumstance. FINA then declared: they’re back in.

Early news reports suggest that the all-clear for Morozov and Lobintsev, both based in the United States and part of a 31-strong Russian squad named for action in Rio, would take the Russia team size down to 26, with five swimmers still barred.

Initially, FINA had barred those named in association with the McLaren Report. Morozov penned a personal appeal on Facebook to FINA president Julio Maglione, who was then to be found telling the Russian media that WADA had exceeded its authority in singling out one nation, despite the seriousness of the evidence pointing to state involvement in systematic doping.

Yuliya Efimova, meanwhile, was challenging her ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while a three-man panel of the International Olympic Committee would decide the final fate of all previously barred and said to have been reinstated.

Whatever uncertainly remained, one thing was clear: if those who had tested positive before made it back for Rio 2016, then Russian swimming would not have been touched at all by the IOC, FINA, WADA, McLaren, the Russian doping scandal, despite clear evidence of a link to Dr Sergei Portugalov, a medical commission man in swimming, and clear evidence of two missing EPO tests by Russian swimmers.

August 4, 2016 – Development 2

The legal appeal of Yuliya Efimova*, the Russian swimmer with a doping suspension against her name, is part won, part lost.

On the one hand the International Olympic Committee’s rule to keep her out of action at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on the basis of a spent suspension is deemed “unenforceable”.

On the other hand, CAS refused to be responsible for the ultimate decision: the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected an appeal aimed at forcing FINA and the IOC to accept her entry to the Games – and forcing a third party to do so, too: the Russian Olympic Committee.

A nation of chess masters, Russia did a deal with the IOC to say it would not select anyone previously suspended – the ROC knowing all along, of course, that such an arrangement would not stand the test of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the day would be won by Russians who want all their athletes, doping shamed and not alike, back in for Rio 2016.

And so, Efimova made it back, with a thumbs up from the IOC and FINA. And so dd all others with an asterisk by their name. Rio 2016 was a Games at which the number of swimmers towing doping suspensions on their career record stretched into double digits.

The IOC Statement on Russian Participation:

List of 271 athletes communicated to the Russian National Olympic Committee

The IOC Review Panel today announced the participation list for Russian athletes at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The Executive Board (EB) delegated the final review of entries of Russian athletes to this Panel, which was composed of three IOC Executive Board Members: Ugur Erdener (Chair of the Panel and Chair of the Medical and Scientific Commission), Claudia Bokel (Chair of the Athletes’ Commission) and Juan Antonio Samaranch.

In accordance with the decision of the IOC Executive Board on 24 July 2016 (Read the full decision here), the IOC would accept entries by the ROC only if a number of very strict conditions were met. The role of the Panel was to review this process.

The full list of criteria is provided at the end of this press release.

The Review Panel based its review on the International Federations’ decisions in relation to the entry of each individual athlete in their corresponding sport, which took into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.

The Review Panel subsequently reviewed the positon of the independent arbitrator appointed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in relation to the evidence provided to meet those criteria.

The result from the IOC Review Panel is as follows:

271 athletes will form the team entered by the Russian National Olympic Committee (ROC) from the original entry list of 389 athletes.

NOTES (the list of criteria set by the IOC EB on 24 July 2016):

The IOC EB took the following decision on 24 July concerning the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016:

1. The IOC will not accept any entry of any Russian athlete in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 unless such athlete can meet the conditions set out below.

2. Entry will be accepted by the IOC only if an athlete is able to provide evidence to the full satisfaction of his or her International Federation (IF) in relation to the following criteria:

• The IFs*, when establishing their pool of eligible Russian athletes, to apply the World Anti-Doping Code and other principles agreed by the Olympic Summit (21 June 2016).

• The absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IFs.

• The IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.

• The IFs to examine the information contained in the IP Report, and for such purpose seek from WADA the names of athletes and National Federations (NFs) implicated. Nobody implicated, be it an athlete, an official, or an NF, may be accepted for entry or accreditation for the Olympic Games.

• The IFs will also have to apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NFs.

3. The ROC is not allowed to enter any athlete for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 who has ever been sanctioned for doping, even if he or she has served the sanction.

4. The IOC will accept an entry by the ROC only if the athlete’s IF is satisfied that the evidence provided meets conditions 2 and 3 above and if it is upheld by an expert from the CAS list of arbitrators appointed by an ICAS Member, independent from any sports organisation involved in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

5. The entry of any Russian athlete ultimately accepted by the IOC will be subject to a rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme in coordination with the relevant IF and WADA. Any non-availability for this programme will lead to the immediate withdrawal of the accreditation by the IOC.

Beyond these decisions, the IOC EB reaffirmed the provisional measures already taken on 19 July 2016. They remain in place until 31 December 2016, and will be reviewed by the EB in December 2016.

Additional sanctions and measures may be imposed by the IOC following the final report of the IP and due legal procedure by the IOC Disciplinary Commission established on 19 July 2016 under the chairmanship of Mr Guy Canivet (Vice-Chair of the IOC Ethics Commission, former member of the French Constitutional Court and President of the French Cour de Cassation) and the IOC EB.

The IOC EB reaffirms its serious concerns about the obvious deficiencies in the fight against doping. The IOC thus emphasises again its call to WADA to fully review their anti-doping system. The IOC will make its contribution to this review by proposing measures for clearer responsibilities, more transparency, better supervision procedures and more independence.

* The IAAF has already established its eligibility pool with regard to Russian athletes.

That is the background of the ban on Russia, December 9, 2019. As stated: it remains to be seen what that will actually mean in practice.