In light of the ongoing work from the IOC Disciplinary Commission I would like to share with you a recent letter from the chair of the commission, Denis Oswald, which relates to the ongoing investigations regarding Russian athletes – Angela Ruggiero.
October 16th 2017
I hope you are well and the preparation for the International Athletes’ Forum is going well under the IOC Athletes’ Commission leadership.
As the work of my Commission progresses towards hearings of the open cases, I would like to provide you and the Athletes’ Commission with some background information regarding our investigations related to the anti-doping allegations against Russian athletes involved in the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. I would also like to update you on the final upcoming steps in this process.
Establishment and mandate of the Commission
To understand where the work of the Commission currently stands and what the final steps will be, it might be helpful to briefly summarise the mandate of the Commission and the steps that have been undertaken to date.
As you know, following the publication of the WADA independent Person Report (the McLaren Report) in July 2016, the Commission I chair was established as an IOC Disciplinary Commission – to examine the information on the manipulation of samples given by Russian athletes at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. This Commission is made up of myself as the Chair, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and Tony Estanguet, as representative of the athletes.
First of all, it is important to understand that we are not dealing with regular doping cases, including a report of adverse analytical finding (AAF) established by an accredited laboratory, which would allow us to easily sanction the athletes concerned. In the cases at hand, the analysis of the samples we have from these athletes have been negative (possibly because their original urine delivered at the end of their competition has been exchanged with clean urine). Therefore these analyses cannot be the basis of a sanction. We must investigate the other evidence of anti-doping rule violations like tampering or manipulations if not use of prohibited substances. This explains why more time was needed than in regular doping cases.
Indeed, our specific role is to examine any possible evidence against individual Russian athletes and their entourage who may have committed an Anti-Doping Violation (ADRV) at Sochi 2014. Based on the final McLaren Report in December 2016, the Commission worked with the IOC Executive Board to initiate three immediate actions:
I. The IOC initiated disciplinary procedures against 28 Russian athletes who competed at Sochi 2014(as the IOC only has jurisdiction over anti-doping issues related to the Olympic Games, all other athletes mentioned in the McLaren Report who did not take part in the Olympic Winter Games are of course under the exclusive authority of the International Federations).
II. The immediate reanalysis of all samples of all Russian athletes who participated in Sochi 2014. This reanalysis has two goals – to further review the urine samples for evidence of doping and, separately, to determine if the samples themselves were manipulated.
III. The IOC Executive Board also extended the original mandate of the Disciplinary Commission to examine all samples collected from Russian athletes during the Olympic Games London 2012. This analysis has been complete and most of the resulting disciplinary procedures are finished. The results can be found here.
In addition to the actions of the Commission outlined above, the IOC has also reanalysed 1,195 urine samples from the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, including the available samples from all medallists and all samples from Russian athletes. Positive cases will be sanctioned accordingly in due course and as quickly as possible.
Establishing a legal methodology for the sample review.
Our Commission has been very conscious of the urgency of moving forward quickly following the publication of the final McLaren Report in December 2016, and equally the need for the work to be completed and resulting decisions taken as far as possible ahead of PyeongChang 2018. Ideally, the hearings will be completed in time to allow the respective International Federations to use the evidence and decisions of our cases in taking any appropriate resulting actions to suspend athletes prior to those athletes actually taking part in any competitions in the upcoming winter season.
As a first step for the work, we carefully studied the McLaren Report to determine the level of evidence available was sufficient to move to full disciplinary action and a legal review of each of the individual athlete’s cases. Professor McLaren has lent us his assistance in this regard throughout the process.
The need for legal evidence to support the prosecution of individual cases has been particularly important in regard to the review of manipulation of samples. Where it was suspected that the urine of Russian athletes collected in Sochi could have been exchanged with clean urine, and that the analyses conducted at the time of the Games had yielded negative results, my Commission had to establish a legally-defendable methodology and subsequent analysis of each individual bottle based on this methodology to demonstrate that these bottle has been opened and closed again.
Professor McLaren noted this was not the jurisdiction of his review, and his methodology was not designed to established legal processes in regard to individual cases. Therefore, we had to develop a new methodology and analysis process beyond that used in the McLaren Report.
This expert analysis was entrusted to the Forensic Department of the University of Lausanne. Firstly, it had to develop a methodology which could be used in legal cases related to the bottles of individual athletes. It was then necessary to have the methodology validated by external experts, which was done mid-July 2017. Specialised staff had to be trained before the first analyses were able to begin. This forensic expert analysis was essential to demonstrate the existence of manipulation in a legal context. Once this was done, analyses of the contents (the B samples) also has to be carried out.
Current status of the analysis
We are currently completing the forensic analysis of both abnormal levels of salt in the samples and scratches on the bottles, which are both evidence of manipulation of the samples. Our Commission has done its utmost to move things forward as quickly as possible, but the task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.
We have now scheduled the hearings of a number of cases. We aim to have all hearings completed by the end of November 2017, with a priority for active athletes with upcoming competitions. There is a particular focus on the six provisionally suspended FIS cross-country skiers, whose current provisional suspension ends on 31 October 2017. We are not able to publicly announce the time of each hearing, but aim to make announcements of the outcome of the hearing and resulting decisions as soon as possible after each individual hearing (rather than wait until the final cases are heard).
I should also confirm that as an IOC Disciplinary Commission, our mandate and jurisdiction is the Olympic Games and therefore we will be making disciplinary decisions related to the participation and results of these athletes at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. However, as you know, the confirmation of the eligibility of any athlete to compete at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and any other events remains the responsibility of the respective International Federations. For this reason, we have been working closely with the relevant International Federations – and therefore the decision of the IOC Disciplinary Commission in regard to the Russian athletes concerned will allow them to immediately bring our findings and decisions forward to their own Disciplinary Commissions, and decide whether or not to suspend these athletes from their sanctioned events, as well as decide whether or not they are eligible to compete at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Angela, we fully understand the importance of the work of our Commission in providing fair process but equally in building credibility and fostering the trust of athletes in the actions being taken regarding the contents of the McLaren Report and reports of doping issues with Russian athletes at Sochi 2014.
I would like to reassure you and the athlete community that we are doing our utmost to conclude these cases for the protection of clean athletes and the integrity of sport, and our objective is that the hearings are completed in time to allow the relevant International Federations to act as appropriate and prevent any athletes who are found to have violated anti-doping rules from participating in the upcoming winter season.
I remain at your disposal should you or IOC Athletes’ Commission wish to discuss this further at any opportunity.