Russian Olympic medallists were among more than 1,000 of the country's athletes involved in a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015, according to the second report by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren presented in London on December 9.
Samples that revealed use of prohibited substances by Russian athletes were manipulated to cover traces in at least 30 sports in what the report called “an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy”.
Professor McLaren led the investigation by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) into allegations of widespread Russian violation of doping regulations in international competitions.
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London were “corrupted on an unprecedented scale”, said McClaren, whose original report released in July called for a ban on Russian athletes participating in all international competitions, including the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.
Russian track and field athletes and weightlifters were excluded from the games by the International Olympic Committee, but in other sports international federations were allowed to decide which athletes could compete.
“The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play,” McLaren wrote.
Medallists at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were also implicated in the report, which provides more detail on his findings presented in July and responds to the denials of Russian sporting officials and a request by the IOC to furnish more evidence.
Russia won 72 medals at the London Games, including 21 gold, and 33 medals at Sochi, 13 of which were gold.
McLaren said international sports competitions had been “unknowingly hijacked by the Russians" and sports fans have been "deceived" for years. "It is time that stops," he added.
A statement issued by the Russian Sports Ministry said it was closely studying the report’s contents “in order to formulate a constructive attitude”, TASS reported. However, it added that the ministry “officially declares there are no government-run programs for supporting doping in sports and it will continue to fight against doping from position of zero tolerance”.
RIA Novosti quoted Russian MP Dmitry Svishchev, who is also the head of Russia's Curling Federation, as saying: “This is what we expected. There’s nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you’ll get accused of every single sin.”
The Wada commission’s investigations centred on testimony from the former head of Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov. In an interview with the New York Times in May, Rodchenkov said an unnamed official from the sports ministry sent him lists of Russian athletes whose doping samples he had to swap during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Rodchenkov’s testimony implicated Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as a main organiser of the deceptions during pre-competition dope testing, including replacing compromised test samples with clean ones without breaking the seals of containers.
As cited by the BBC, the new report also found that two Russian female ice hockey players at the Sochi games had male urine samples; samples of Russian medal winners in Sochi were tampered with; emails were found asking for instructions from the Russian Ministry of Sport on what to do with a positive sample - save or quarantine; it found spreadsheets containing lists of athletes whose samples had been saved.
A clean urine bank was also kept in Moscow; a cocktail of drugs with a very short detection window known as the "Duchess" was developed to assist athletes in evading doping; salt and instant coffee granules were added to clean urine samples to match the appearance of the positive samples.
At the government level, Russia has reaffirmed its commitment to fighting doping in sports, including ordering the creation of a new anti-doping screening programme in 2017.
“The so-called doping scandal will encourage us to create in Russia the most advanced system in the fight against this evil,” Putin said during his annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly on December 1.
While Putin has taken a firm public stance against doping since the first Wada report was released, he also linked the doping scandals to the simultaneous “attempts to exert outside pressure” on Russia.
“All possible tools were used - beginning with myths about Russia’s aggression and propaganda, interference into foreign elections, and ending with harassment of our athletes and Paralympians,” Putin said in his speech.
Meanwhile, former sports minister Vitaly Mutko was in October promoted to deputy prime minister despite being implicated in the alleged doping network detailed in McLaren's original report, which claimed Mutko in at least one instance intervened to prevent the publication of a positive drug test.