WADA to probe claims that systemic doping exists in Russian swimming
The Times newspaper claims positive tests have been covered up
Russian athletes currently banned from competition because of doping
From the track to the pool – the latest doping allegations thrown at Russia concern its swimmers.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has vowed to examine claims made by a British newspaper that it has uncovered systemic doping in the sport.
The Times alleges that positive tests have been covered up and that Dr. Sergei Portugalov, implicated by WADA in the athletics scandal, had been working with the Russian swimming teams.
Its athletes are banned from competition after a WADA report said the country effectively ran a state-sponsored doping program, and its participation at the Rio Olympics is in doubt.
WADA president Craig Reedie now says the organization will scour that independent report to corroborate the claims before deciding what level of inquiry is needed.
“There is no doubt that today’s disturbing assertions of orchestrated doping in Russian swimming should be scrutinized,” he said in a statement on WADA’s official website on Wednesday.
“WADA and its partners are under no illusions about the challenges facing sport’s integrity today. Clean athletes are justifiably concerned that their rights are being eroded through the minority that choose to dope in sport.”
WADA said it had written to swimming’s world governing body – FINA – and that the allegations arrived at a point where trust in clean sport was “already in a perilous state.”
It was particularly concerned by claims that Portugalov – who faces a lifetime ban for working in athletics – should be implicated by The Times.
It alleges Portugalov began working with Russian swimmers in 2009, and that since then 23 had tested positive for banned substances, taking the tally to 40 over the past decade.
“It should be noted that, under the World Anti-Doping Code, such a lifetime sanction should also be recognized by all other International Sport Federations,” WADA said.
When contacted by CNN, the Russian Swimming Federation said it had never worked with Portugalov and wouldn’t be commenting on The Times’ investigation at the moment.
Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA, said it would provide CNN with a statement later Thursday.
FINA called on The Times to share its evidence, and said anything which has not already been addressed will be investigated urgently.
“While FINA is not aware of any concrete evidence of systemic doping in Russian swimming, we have taken a particularly robust approach to our anti-doping procedures in relation to Russia and Russian competitions, in light of WADA’s recent investigation,” its statement read.
It said 645 samples were collected during the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Russia – 457 urine and 188 blood tests – and that a further 418 blood screenings were taken as part of the biological passport program.
These samples were tested in a laboratory in Moscow – which has since lost its WADA-accreditation – under supervision by independent observers. Since WADA’s report into Russia, the samples had been moved to Barcelona.
On Thursday, The Times said WADA was looking into claims that five positive tests by Chinese swimmers had been covered up to avoid controversy before the country’s Olympic trials in April.
The newspaper said those in China willing to blow the whistle were unable to contact WADA because of state surveillance.
CNN was unable to immediately contact the Chinese Swimming Federation but WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said it was aware of The Times’ allegations and was scrutinizing the information it had to see what level of inquiry needed to be carried out.