Russian doping was state-sponsored with secret service backing, according to investigation
By Ben Reynolds
Last Updated: 18/07/16 5:46pm
Russia could be banned from the Rio Olympics next month after an independent commission found evidence of state-sponsored doping in the country during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, said Russia's Ministry of Sport "directed, controlled and oversaw" the manipulation of urine samples provided by Russian athletes at the Sochi anti-doping laboratory with the "active participation and assistance" of the FSB secret service.
McLaren delivered three main findings at a press conference in Toronto on Monday - that doped samples "disappeared" from the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, that they were swapped with clean samples at the laboratory for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 and that these plans were directed by the Russian sports ministry.
The findings have cast huge doubt on Russia's participation at the Games, which start on August 5, with their track-and-field athletes already banned by the IAAF, and an IOC statement on Monday afternoon said a decision could be made as early as Tuesday on the matter.
"In the immediate short term, the IOC Executive Board (EB) will convene in a telephone conference tomorrow (Tuesday) to take its first decisions, which may include provisional measures and sanctions with regard to the Olympic Games Rio 2016," it read.
IOC president Thomas Bach said: "The findings of the report show a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games.
"Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated."
The 57-day investigation was set up in May following an interview in the New York Times with the former director of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, in which he described an elaborate plan to ensure Russian success at Sochi 2014.
Rodchenkov has been in hiding in the United States since that interview after being branded a "criminal" and a "traitor" by senior Russian figures, but McLaren's findings appear to vindicate his version of events.
He said his team had used forensic analysis, seized computers, studied data and performed extra tests on stored samples from the Sochi Games and other major events.
"The Moscow laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a state-dictated fail-safe system," McLaren said.
"The Sochi Laboratory operated a unique sample-swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Winter Olympic Games," he added.
UK Anti-Doping, which has been running the testing programme in Russia on WADA's behalf since the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) was suspended, said the entire sporting community must unite to find new ways and a stronger commitment to ensure clean competition.
"We have an obligation to help safeguard clean athletes around the globe by working closely with international partners to support the development of robust anti-doping practices in countries where these are weak," said UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead.
"Everyone has a responsibility to support this process for the sake of clean and honest athletes."
UK sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "Professor McLaren's report has exposed the extreme lengths some will go to in order to cheat.
"This shocking report is a wake-up call to the sporting world and I hope it will act as a catalyst for us to work even harder to protect the integrity of sport and the Olympic movement itself."