Athletics: Window escape offers insight into scale of Russian doping scandal

Sportsmen train in Stavropol, Russia on Tuesday.
Sportsmen train in Stavropol, Russia on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - A first-hand account from a Russian doping control officer (DCO), who escaped via a hotel window to dodge police accused of wanting to cover up positive tests, provides a telling insight into the extent of reported systematic doping in Russia.

It's a small anecdote easily lost in the bigger picture but one that illustrates the remarkable accusations made in a damning report released on Monday by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The episode, reported by an active DCO via athletics' world governing body to the independent commission in March, draws parallels to a Cold War novel.

The officer in question was in Saransk, more than 500km east of the capital Moscow, and had just collected test samples from athletes but noted that the police were taking a particular close interest in his work.

"When I spent several hours giving the explanations, the policemen who were looking for the samples (were) waiting in front of the hotel room, willing to accompany me and the samples to the train (he should have taken to Moscow)," recounted the officer, who wished to remain anonymous.

"The police in Moscow were already aware about my arrival (there) and were waiting - just to ensure the samples will go to the Moscow lab," he explained.

According to the WADA report, the laboratory - which has since had its accreditation suspended - and perhaps a second secret, unaccredited one, took part in organised cheating, going so far as to destroy compromising samples.

"(There) was also a coach - a coach who has more than 20 positive athletes in a few years, a coach who did not hesitate to call the Moscow lab just in front of me and gave them the numbers of the bottles which must arrive the next day, confirmed that the police keep an eye on them and said that the lab know what to do."

That prompted the officer to flee from the watchful eye of authorities in dramatic fashion in order to ensure the "safe custody and control" of the athlete samples.

"When I left the hotel by the window during the night in order to take another train, I left the light and the TV working in a room, so they could imagine I'm inside," he said. "The police were waiting at the station in Moscow, I had to do my best to avoid them and to deliver the samples to another person."

This second individual then sent the samples for analysis to a lab in Lausanne, where four positive tests were discovered.

However, since then the person who delivered those samples to Switzerland has not been able to make any further transfers, and the family of the doping-control officer, including his mother, have been subjected to threats, the report said.