At the Winter Olympics in Sochi in early 2014, no Russian athletes tested positive for doping, and they took home 33 medals, more than any other nation. But the reality was far different. A secret system was in place that concealed the use of performance-enhancing drugs by the Russians. Moreover, doping and coverups have been carried out by Russia across a range of international competitions from late 2011 to 2015, according to the report made public Monday by the World Anti-Doping Agency and led by Canadian law professor Richard H. McLaren. This systemic cheating should lead the International Olympic Committee to bar Russia from the 2016 Rio Games.
An earlier investigation of Russia by a three-member panel from WADA uncovered doping in track and field, primarily directed by senior coaching officials. Then, the New York Times and CBS’ “60 Minutes” reported in May that doping had also gone on at Sochi. The probe by McLaren, based on interviews, forensic investigation and thousands of pages of documents, goes far deeper and established Russian doping and coverups before and after Sochi and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” McLaren concluded it was the Russian government that oversaw and directed the “entirety” of the falsification of test results. Moreover, the report describes how this “systematic scheme” of cheating — in which positive results were made to “disappear” — was modified to remain secret at Sochi.
The Federal Security Service, or FSB, a successor to the Soviet KGB, employed “magicians” who attempted to “surreptitiously open” tamper-proof lids of urine test bottles; FSB people were inserted into the test labs; and the FSB participated in a urine-swapping arrangement at Sochi, sneaking samples through a “mouse hole” secretly cut in a laboratory wall. The Russian laboratory director, Grigory Rodchenkov, who later exposed the system to the Times, was required to sign a paper making him an FSB agent, code name “Kuts,” the report says. McLaren found cheating was “a State imposed and rigorously controlled program,” directed by the Ministry of Sport, and said it was “inconceivable” that the minister, Vitaly Mutko, was not aware of it. Over the years, the coverup orders came from the deputy minister of sport, who favored promising athletes by issuing the code word “Save” and punished those performing poorly with “Quarantine.” The cocktails of drugs given to athletes, codenamed “Duchess,” were mixed with Chivas for men and vermouth for women.
Throwing Russia out of the Olympics may sound harsh, but so is the fact that Russia’s government has been cheating with drugs for years and covering it up. At one point in late 2014, some 8,000 urine samples were destroyed to prevent detection of forbidden drugs. President Vladimir Putin, who promoted Sochi as a symbol of Russia’s revival, was in fact boss of a rule-breaking machine. Putin, the one-time KGB officer and later FSB director, shows little respect for a rules-based international order; the drugged athletes and falsified test results are just the latest examples of his subterfuge and corrosive behavior. The world’s response ought to be unwavering: This is not acceptable.