Mutko pledges new anti-dop­ing ac­tion

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SOCHI: Rus­sian sports min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko yes­ter­day pledged his coun­try would adopt new mea­sures to clamp down on dop­ing in­clud­ing de­vis­ing new test­ing meth­ods and pos­si­bly open­ing crim­i­nal cases against ath­letes sus­pected of cheating.

Mutko was speak­ing af­ter an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion es­tab­lished by the World An­ti­Dop­ing Com­mis­sion (WADA) ac­cused Rus­sian ath­letes, aided by of­fi­cials, of en­gag­ing in sys­tem­atic and wide­spread dop­ing.

A Moscow lab­o­ra­tory tasked with catching drugs cheats in Rus­sian ath­let­ics shared a build­ing com­plex with the doc­tor ac­cused of mas­ter­mind­ing the cheating scheme. A re­port com­mis­sioned by the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) ex­posed a state-spon­sored drugs cul­ture in Rus­sian ath­let­ics, a scan­dal which could cost Rus­sia its place at next year’s Rio Olympics.

WADA iden­ti­fied Doc­tor Sergei Por­tu­galov, for­mer deputy di­rec­tor of the Rus­sian Fed­eral Re­search Cen­tre of Phys­i­cal Cul­ture and Sports ( VNIIFK), as the mas­ter­mind of the scheme, ad­vis­ing ath­letes on dop­ing, ad­min­is­ter­ing in­jec­tions and help­ing cover up pos­i­tive drugs tests.

“De­spite his os­ten­si­bly le­git­i­mate sta­tus, Dr. Por­tu­galov’s ac­tiv­i­ties in­di­cate that he played a much more sin­is­ter role in the prepa­ra­tion of ath­letes,” it said.

One of the peo­ple whose job was to de­tect and stop Por­tu­galov’s ac­tiv­i­ties was Grig­ory Rod­chenkov, the di­rec­tor of Rus­sia’s lead­ing anti-dop­ing cen­tre which was ac­cred­ited by WADA to test blood and urine sam­ples for banned sub­stances. But in fact the two men and the agen­cies where they worked had a closely in­ter­twined re­la­tion­ship.

At num­ber 10 El­iza­vetinsky lane in east­ern Moscow, Rod­chenkov’s lab­o­ra­tory stands next to the VNIIFK head of­fice. Both build­ings list the same ad­dress on their web­sites and are con­nected by an over­head walk­way span­ning the short space be­tween them.

The anti-dop­ing cen­tre was opened in the run-up to Rus­sia’s 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, equipped with state of the art equip­ment and able to process around 20,000 tests a year.

Its en­trance is flanked by tar­pau­lin fence cov­ers show­ing sil­hou­et­ted ath­letes com­pet­ing at sports as­so­ci­ated with Rus­sian sport­ing achieve­ments: ice hockey, fig­ure skat­ing and biathlon.

A re­view of pub­licly avail­able Moscow city records shows the VNIIFK acted as a de­vel­oper to build the new lab­o­ra­tory and a sports min­istry state­ment an­nounc­ing the anti-dop­ing cen­tre’s open­ing sug­gests the gov­ern­ment viewed the two or­gan­i­sa­tions as the same en­tity.

Por­tu­galov and Rod­chenkov ap­peared at mul­ti­ple con­fer­ences to­gether, sit­ting on dis­cus­sion pan­els and once at­tended a meet­ing of lead­ing ath­let­ics train­ers and spe­cial­ists hosted by the VNIIFK.

A pho­to­graph from 2007 shows both men view­ing a piece of test­ing equip­ment at an In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions sem­i­nar at­tended by for­mer Rus­sian ath­let­ics chief Valentin Balakhnichev, who de­nies WADA al­le­ga­tions of con­spir­ing to black­mail ath­letes ahead of the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.

A per­son an­swer­ing the phone at the VNIIFK told Reuters on Tues­day that Por­tu­galov no longer works at the cen­tre but de­clined to com­ment on why or when he left.

How­ever, a state­ment on the VNIIFK web­site de­tail­ing the ed­i­to­rial board of its Jour­nal of Sports Science pub­li­ca­tion lists Por­tu­galov as the cen­tre’s deputy di­rec­tor as re­cently as Au­gust this year as.

Por­tu­galov de­clined to be in­ter­viewed and the VNIIFK did not re­spond to writ­ten ques­tions sub­mit­ted by Reuters. Rus­sian Sports Min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko said on Tues­day Rod­chenkov had re­signed and his lab­o­ra­tory was closed fol­low­ing the WADA al­le­ga­tions that he had taken pay­ments and de­stroyed sam­ples to con­ceal pos­i­tive test re­sults.

A se­cu­rity guard at the cen­tre yes­ter­day said it was still open and Rod­chenkov was at meet­ings at the sports min­istry. Rod­chenkov and the anti-dop­ing cen­tre could not be reached for com­ment. — Agen­cies

MOSCOW: A pic­ture taken on Septem­ber 23, 2009 in Moscow shows a tech­ni­cian check­ing test tubes at the Moscow anti-dop­ing lab­o­ra­tory. The head of Rus­sia’s anti-dop­ing lab­o­ra­tory re­signed late Tues­day, hours af­ter his lab­o­ra­tory was sus­pended over ac­cu­sa­tions it was part of state-spon­sored dop­ing pro­gramme that ex­perts fear could snow­ball into an in­ter­na­tional cri­sis for the sport. — AFP

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