LONDON – Russia’s sports reputation was ripped apart again Friday when a new report into systematic doping detailed a vast “institutional conspiracy” that covered more than 1,000 athletes in over 30 sports and corrupted the drug-testing system at the 2012 and 2014 Olympics.
The findings were handed over to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will be under pressure to take action against the Russians ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigator Richard McLaren said. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived.”
McLaren’s second and final report said the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, providing further details of state involvement in a massive program of cheating and cover-ups that operated on an “unprecedented scale” from 2011-15.
The Canadian law professor described the Russian doping program as “a cover-up that evolved over the years from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy.”
The findings confirmed much of the evidence contained in McLaren’s first report issued in July, while expanding the number of athletes involved and the overall scope of the cheating program in the sports powerhouse.
“Over 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,” McLaren said.
The names of those athletes, including 600 summer sports competitors, have been turned over to international federations to pursue disciplinary sanctions, he said.
The 144-page report provided further forensic evidence of manipulation of samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where sealed doping bottles were opened with special tools by intelligence agents and tainted urine was replaced with clean urine to beat the drug-testing system.
Russians who won 15 medals in Sochi had their samples tampered with, including two athletes who won four gold medals, McLaren found.
The report also found the Russian doping program corrupted the 2012 London Olympics on an “unprecedented scale.” While no Russians tested positive at the time of the games, McLaren said the sports ministry gave athletes a “cocktail of steroids … in order to beat the detection thresholds at the London lab.”
The report said 15 Russian medal winners in London had been on a list of athletes who had been protected by Russian officials from testing positive before the games. Ten of those athletes have since had their London medals stripped after their samples were retested.
Declaring that McLaren’s findings detailed “a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general,” the IOC said it would retest samples of all Russian athletes who competed in Sochi and London.
IOC President Thomas Bach said any athlete or official involved “in such as sophisticated manipulation system” should be banned for life from the Olympics.
The Russian Sports Ministry said it was studying the report and denied the country had any state-sponsored doping system.
McLaren opened his investigation earlier this year after Moscow’s former doping lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, told The New York Times that he and other officials were involved in an organized doping program for Russian athletes. He detailed how tainted samples were replaced with clean urine through a concealed “mouse hole” in the wall of the Sochi lab.