Revealed: How Russia beat Sochi drug net

Russia's Alexander Legkov crossing the line first in the 50km mass start at the Sochi Winter Olympics. He was allegedly among those aided by Russia's doping programme. He has since described those allegations as "nonsense and slanderous".
Russia's Alexander Legkov crossing the line first in the 50km mass start at the Sochi Winter Olympics. He was allegedly among those aided by Russia's doping programme. He has since described those allegations as "nonsense and slanderous".PHOTO: REUTERS

Former anti-doping director says medallists were given drugs, tainted samples swopped

MONTREAL • The former head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) has revealed his part in an astonishing state-run doping programme before and during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

This included supplying banned performance-enhancing substances to at least 15 medal winners and substituting tainted urine samples with clean ones during the Games so that they passed doping tests.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) described the accusations, which were published by the New York Times on Thursday, as "very worrying" and called an immediate investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory from 2005 to 2015 who has since fled to the United States, claimed he helped dozens of Russian athletes with banned substances including metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone.

To improve the absorption of the steroids and shorten the detection window, he dissolved the drugs in Chivas whisky for male athletes and Martini vermouth for women.

Among those he claimed to have helped to cheat were bobsleigher Alexander Zubkov, who won two golds in Sochi; cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won gold and silver; and Alexander Tretiakov, who won the skeleton event.

A WELL-RUN DOPING MACHINE

We were fully equipped, knowledgeable, experienced and perfectly prepared for Sochi like never before. It was working like a Swiss watch.

GRIGORY RODCHENKOV, former director of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory, on how well-organised Russia's doping programme had been during the Sochi Games.

Rodchenkov also claimed the women's ice hockey team, who went out in the quarter-finals, were doping throughout the Games.

"We were fully equipped, knowledgeable, experienced and perfectly prepared for Sochi like never before," he admitted. "It was working like a Swiss watch."

Legkov and Zubkov have described the claims as "nonsense and slanderous", Russia's Match TV reported.

Among a series of extraordinary claims that were published in the New York Times, Rodchenkov said Russian anti-doping experts and members of the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, secretly replaced urine samples containing banned substances of medal winners with clean urine.

To do this, they set up a shadow laboratory - Room 124 - at the official drug-testing site, having found a way to break into supposedly tamper-proof bottles.

During the night, when no one else was around, tainted samples from Russian athletes would be passed through a small hole in the floor to this shadow laboratory, where they were replaced with clean urine from athletes collected months earlier.

The elaborate procedure allowed Russian athletes to continue taking banned substances during the Games, given them an advantage over their rivals.

The Russians topped the medal table in Sochi with 33 medals, including 13 golds, a huge improvement on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where they finished only 11th with 15 medals.

None of their athletes were caught doping in Sochi. However, Rodchenkov said that as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged during the Games.

"People are celebrating Olympic champion winners but we are sitting crazy and replacing their urine," he said. "Can you imagine how Olympic sport is organised?"

He told American film-maker Bryan Fogel, with whom he is working on a documentary about doping in international sport, that the Russian sports ministry was actively involved in giving its athletes performance-enhancing drugs - and hiding the consequences .

However Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was scornful of the allegations, calling them "a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport".

He said: "The system of organisation of the Olympic Games was completely transparent. Everything was under the control of international experts, from the collection of samples to their analysis."

Last November, Rodchenkov was named as a key figure in a Wada investigation that detailed the extensive state-sponsored doping in Russia. Former Wada chief Dick Pound, who led the Independent Commission, claimed that Rodchenkov was an integral part of the conspiracy to extort money from athletes in order to cover up positive results.

Rodchenkov admits that he was a key part of what Wada called "the intentional and malicious destruction" of 1,417 samples to deny evidence for the inquiry. In fact, he now admits to destroying "thousands" of samples.

Rodchenkov claimed that Russian officials forced him to resign. Fearing for his safety, he then moved to Los Angeles. Two of Rodchenkov's former colleagues died unexpectedlyin February.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Revealed: how Russia beat Sochi drug net'. Print Edition | Subscribe