By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
On 9 December 2016, Professor Richard McLaren published his second and final report into the Sochi Doping Allegations.
Prof McLaren was originally appointed by WADA in May 2016 to conduct an investigation into the allegations of Dr Rodchenkov (former director of the Moscow Laboratory anti-doping centre), published in the ‘New York Times’ newspaper on 12 May 2016.
In July 2016, Prof McLaren published his initial report, which found that the Moscow Laboratory operated a sample swapping methodology to allow athletes to compete in competitions and worked for the protection of doping Russian athletes within a State dictated system fail-safe system.
Unfortunately, the initial report was concluded within a tight timescale and all of the data before Prof McLaren had not been examined by the time the report was published. As such, the initial report only dealt with the data examined as at the date of publication, and Prof McLaren agreed to publish a second and final report once all the data had been examined.
In his second report, the findings in the initial report were maintained. Additionally, he concluded that the Russian authorities had taken part in a systematic and centralised cover up and manipulation of the doping control process over the course of London 2012 Summer Olympic Games; the 2013 Kazan Universiade Games; the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships; and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games; and that the swapping of Russian athletes’ urine samples did not stop at the conclusion of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, but became a regular occurrence at the Moscow Laboratory when dealing with elite summer and winter athletes. According to the report, over 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in this “institutional conspiracy”.
The swapping of athletes’ urine samples at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi was a sophisticated operation, involving substantial planning that culminated in the late night swapping of samples after the last international personnel working in the laboratory had departed. Once departed, an individual, who had access to the laboratory, would enter and pass the dirty sample through a mouse hole to an individual waiting on the other side, who would then swap the sample.
The report also concluded that male DNA was discovered in samples taken from two female hockey players’ urine samples and that of the urine samples analysed for salt concentration, 6 bottles contained more salt than was physiologically possible in a healthy human; whilst 2 samples contained salt physiologically below the level of a healthy human.
Prof McLaren has passed his report to WADA with a view to WADA forwarding it to the International Sports Federations to take action against the individual athletes concerned.
It should be noted that Prof McLaren did not assess the evidence available to him against each individual athlete, rather he viewed the evidence as a whole and passed it to WADA. It was not part of his mandate to assess the sufficiency of evidence against individual athletes.
It will now be for the International Sports Federations to analyse Prof McLaren’s final report and the evidence passed to them and take further action.
In the continuing fight against doping in sport, only the strongest possible action must be taken against the individuals involved and the process of taking and storing samples of athletes’ urine reformed, so that the manipulation uncovered in this report can never happen again.