Good afternoon everybody,
On Monday 18 July, Professor Richard McLaren published his Independent Person Report into allegations of doping at the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
His findings revealed a state sponsored doping programme implemented ahead of the Sochi Games which was designed to give Russian athletes a competitive advantage over their rivals.
In my view, the McLaren Report marked one of the darkest days in the history of all sport. It was a body blow for everyone who is committed to clean, fair and honest competition. It questioned the integrity and credibility of sport as we all know it, and has left me and many others deeply saddened.
On Friday 22 July, after fully evaluating the report and additional information we received from the report’s author, the IPC Governing Board opened suspension proceedings against our member the Russian Paralympic Committee in light of its apparent inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Ant-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.
Over the last 16 days, there have been a number of sleepless nights, as our priority has been to establish the full facts in respect of Para sport.
A decision of this magnitude must be evidence based and not influenced by the many and varied views of other people or organisations outside of the IPC and the Paralympic Movement. As a result we have taken various steps to gather as much evidence as possible in order to inform our final decision.
I’d now like to share with you some of the key steps taken, and the facts we have established.
Step 1 – Further investigation of the “disappearing positive” samples
The McLaren report identified 35 samples related to Paralympic sport where, between 2012 and 2015, a liaison person within the Moscow Laboratory notified the Russian Deputy Minister of Sport following a positive screen result. Following this notification, samples were marked either as QUARANTINE or SAVE. This meant that the positive result was either progressed as usual, or was covered up and reported as a negative.
The corruption of that system is a fundamental breach of both the World Anti-Doping Code and the IPC Anti-Doping Code.
Following a request from the IPC on Monday 18 July, Professor McLaren provided the names of the athletes associated with the 35 samples on Thursday 21 July, together with the dates the samples were provided, the possible substance the athletes tested positive for, the sample code numbers and whether the sample had been marked QUARANTINE or SAVE.
As this is an ongoing live investigation, Professor McLaren’s team yesterday morning provided the IPC with an additional 10 samples, relating to nine athletes, which were part of the “disappearing positive” methodology.
In total the IPC now has information on 45 samples relating to 44 athletes.
From these data, the IPC determined in what sports the 44 athletes compete, with the exception of one individual that has not been identified yet. Our research revealed that 17 of the 45 samples originate from athletes who participate in sports that are either not on the Paralympic programme or from whose international federations that are not recognised by the IPC.
This leaves 27 samples that are related to athletes in eight Para sports that are part of the current Paralympic sport programme. Five of the eight sports are summer sports, whilst three are winter sports.
Some of the Para sports associated with the 27 samples are ones that the IPC governs as an International Federation, whilst others are non-IPC sports that are governed by other International Federations.
At least 11 of the 27 Para sport athlete samples were marked SAVE by the Moscow Laboratory. This means that positive samples from these Para athletes were subsequently reported as a negative, and the athletes faced no punishment.
It must be stressed that all these findings have been discovered following just 76 days of investigation by Professor McLaren and his team. They believe that there are likely to be even more samples that were included in the “disappearing positive” methodology.
With Professor McLaren’s mandate extended by WADA, the IPC awaits further supporting evidence and would like to once again extend our thanks to him and his team for their efforts so far and their swift responses to our many questions.
Step 2 – Testing of 21 samples from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
The McLaren report also uncovered that during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, a sample swapping system operated in the Sochi laboratory involving samples provided by Russian athletes.
Following further investigations since the report’s publication, the IPC now has evidence that the same abhorrent practices also took place during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
On Friday 22 July, the IPC sent 21 samples from seven Russian Para athletes who competed at Sochi 2014 to London for further forensic examination. These samples were selected principally by the investigation team on an intelligence-led basis, together with a small number of additional samples chosen by the IPC.
Upon receipt, the laboratory found that two samples had sediment in the cap which meant they could not be tested, leaving 19 samples that could be properly examined.
Of these, forensic examination established that the caps of 18 bottles showed scratches and marks that were consistent with those found on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games samples where caps were removed and reused. Just one of the 19 samples was found to be untampered with.
On Saturday 6 August, the IPC received DNA analysis which confirms the clean urine which was swapped comes from the same athlete.
According to the McLaren investigation team, the bottles examined are a representative sample that indicates that Russian Paralympic athletes were included in the broader doping scheme. They believe that further investigations will uncover many more samples involved in the programme.
Now that these data have corroborated the claim that the State directed scheme involved Russian Paralympic athletes, the IPC plans to reanalyse every Russian sample from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in the coming months.
The IPC is also seeking further advice from the IPC Anti-Doping Committee and WADA on what measures can be taken to address the athletes associated with these samples, including advice on results management.
Step 3 – Dialogue with the Russian Paralympic Committee
In accordance with the IPC’s Suspension Policy, the IPC provided sufficient time to allow the Russian Paralympic Committee to present their case to the IPC.
On Friday 29 July, they provided written submissions to the IPC Governing Board for consideration. On Wednesday 3 August, a seven-person delegation from the Russian Paralympic Committee visited the IPC’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany, to additionally present their arguments in person before the IPC Governing Board. Twelve IPC Governing Board members participated in the three-hour long meeting which also provided an opportunity for both parties to enter into dialogue and ask and answer questions of each other.
After the meeting the Board convened for a further two and half hours to discuss the evidence it had before it.
Questions that could not be answered fully in the meeting were responded to within 24 hours in writing.
After taking these steps, and drawing together the evidence in the timeframe available, the IPC Governing Board, a group that includes six Paralympians, then took time to fully evaluate the position before making its decision.
When the Governing Board reconvened on Friday, it was unanimous in its verdict. It is strongly of the view that the Russian Paralympic Committee is currently unable to ensure compliance with and the enforcement of the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction. Therefore, it cannot fulfil its fundamental obligations as an IPC member and, as a result, the IPC Governing Board has resolved to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee with immediate effect.
This means that the Russian Paralympic Committee loses all rights and privileges of IPC membership. This includes not being able to enter Para athletes into competitions sanctioned by the IPC, and being unable to participate in IPC activities. Consequently, the Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter its athletes into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The Russian Paralympic Committee was informed of our decision earlier today.
It is a decision that has placed a huge burden upon all our shoulders, but it’s a decision we’ve had to take in the best interests of the Paralympic Movement.
Ultimately, as the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement, it is our responsibility to ensure fair competition, so that athletes can have confidence that they are competing on a level playing field. This is vital to the integrity and credibility of Paralympic sport, and in order to achieve this it is fundamental that each member abides by the rules.
As I hope you have seen, before reaching our decision we took the necessary time to ask further questions of Professor McLaren and his investigation team, to await the results of samples undergoing further forensic examination, and to invite the Russian Paralympic Committee to present their case to the IPC and enter into dialogue with the IPC Governing Board.
We had to establish the full facts of the situation and I cannot tell you how saddened we all were to learn that the State-sponsored doping programme that exists within Russian sport regrettably extends to Russian Para sport as well.
The facts really do hurt; they are an unprecedented attack on every clean athlete who competes in sport. The anti-doping system in Russia is broken, corrupted and entirely compromised.
The Paralympic Movement is one giant family and I had hoped that something like this would never rear its ugly head in our Movement. Everything we have observed goes against the very spirit of sport and everything the Paralympic Movement stands for. This is why we feel that we had no option but to take this action.
Tragically, this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a State run system that is cheating the athletes. The doping culture that is polluting Russian sport stems from the Russian government and has now been uncovered in not one, but two independent reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Our decision is driven by the need to hold our members accountable for their obligations. On the basis of the evidence we have, in the current environment our member the Russian Paralympic Committee cannot comply with the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code. Those obligations are crucial to the IPC’s guarantee of fair competition for all.
I believe the Russian government has catastrophically failed its Para athletes. Their medals over morals mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the anti-doping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport. It shows a blatant disregard for the health and well-being of athletes and, quite simply, has no place in Paralympic sport. Their thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sports, and has certainly resulted in a devastating outcome for the Russian Paralympic Committee and Para athletes.
All members of the IPC Governing Board have deep sympathy for Russian Para athletes who will miss out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. They are part of a broken system and we sincerely hope that the changes that need to happen, do happen. Russia has some top-quality athletes across all sports and we look forward to the day when we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling all its obligations in order to ensure a level playing field for all
The Paralympic Movement has a proud and deep rooted history of fair and honourable competition. We want to keep it this way, and will do everything within our power to do so. We want the values that have seen the Paralympic Movement grow rapidly since our creation in 1948 to remain the essence of our future. We want people who watch Paralympic sport to have confidence and belief in the amazing feats that they see.
We believe the decision we have taken will help achieve this not just at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games but at all future Para sport events.