Explained: Using spies and coffee, how Russia dopers ‘hijacked’ sports

McLaren report's verdict was that Russia has hijacked' sporting competitions for years, cheating rivals out of medals, and deceiving spectators.

By: AP | Updated: December 10, 2016 10:14 am
wada, wada doping, russia, russia doping, doping russia, russia sponsored doping, sports news, sports Winter Olympics 2014 were held in Sochi and Russia need to perform well at home. (Source: AP File)

After six months of doping investigations, Richard McLaren delivered an emphatic verdict on Friday: Russia has “hijacked” sporting competitions for years, cheating rivals out of medals, and deceiving spectators.

A 144-page report backed up by 1,166 supporting documents was sent by McLaren to the World Anti-Doping Agency, building on his initial findings in July into Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. Here is a breakdown of McLaren’s case against Russia:

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THE CATALYST: Four years out from hosting the Winter Olympics, Russia was embarrassed by an 11th-place finish in the medals standings at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

With no time to cleanly enhance athlete performance in Sochi, Russia had to rely on its scientists and secret service agents known as “magicians” to subvert WADA processes to power the country to the top of the standings. The doping deception continued through to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

THE SCALE: More than 1,231 samples reported by a Moscow laboratory to the sports ministry as containing a prohibited substance were recorded as negative tests on the WADA database or never reported at all.

And at least 246 athletes were “knowingly participating” in the manipulation of results, according to McLaren. At the London Olympics, 15 Russian medal winners were identified as being part of a deception, and 10 have already been stripped of their medals.

THE METHODS: Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, was leading a double life. In public, Rodchenkov was being acclaimed for his work detecting steroids while “secretly developing a cocktail of drugs with a very short detection window” ahead of the London Olympics, McLaren reported. Still, retesting of samples from the 2008 and 2012 games has caught dozens of Russians whose samples still contained older substances.

Rodchenkov has previously informed McLaren that urine samples for Russian athletes at the 2014 Games were swapped out for clean samples through a “mouse hole” in the wall at a laboratory in Sochi. Late-night bottle tampering was conducted by FSB agents, leaving no sign of scratches or marks to untrained eyes. Expert testimony details how “thin strips of medal” could be used to push up a ring around the bottle’s neck, and photographs show what are claimed to be telltale scratches left by the process.

The Russians kept supplies of urine when athletes were not doping. So when they did cheat, those supplies could be used to replace the dirty A samples. The A samples would be diluted with salt or even Nescafe coffee granules to match the gravity and appearance of dirty B samples.

Evidence of tampering emerged when samples showed salt levels above and below levels that were “physiologically possible” in healthy humans. And DNA analysis showed that athletes’ samples even contained urine from opposite sexes.

THE GUILTY

There are hundreds of pages of emails allegedly between Rodchenkov and state officials listing athletes who have tested positive, and discussing whether to “save” them from punishment or “quarantine” them and let disciplinary processes take their course. However, almost all of the athletes’ names are redacted so as not to prejudice their privacy or future disciplinary proceedings.

RUSSIAN REACTION

Vitaly Smirnov, the veteran Olympic official appointed by President Vladimir Putin to oversee Russia’s doping reforms, and the sports ministry issued denials that Russia ran a state-sponsored doping system.

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