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In the News: Documentary alleges systematic Russian doping

A German documentary claims that Russian authorities knowingly aided their Olympic athletes in cheating and avoiding detection

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The Guardian reports that a German TV documentary, aired on MDR network Wednesday alleges not only that up to “99 percent” of the Russian Olympic team used doping but also that a network of corruption had been put in place to cover up positive tests, involving officials at the Russian anti-doping agency, the doping control laboratory in Moscow, as well as the International Association of Athletics Federations.

One retired Russian runner, Yuliya Stepanova, says she was frequently encouraged by her coaches to keep “clean” urine samples in a freezer for tests during training. At the Russian athletics championships she was instructed to text the number of her urine sample to an official, after which she would be able to “sleep in peace.” One covert recording shows her coach handing her pills said to be Oxandrolone, an anabolic steroid banned by the International Olympic Committee.

“The coaches chose a girl, fed her pills and then she’d be off,” Stepanova said. “And the next day she’d be banned and then they’d say, ‘We’ll find a new one.’”

At the 2012 London Olympics, only one Russian cyclist medaled. Olga Zabelinskaya claimed bronze in both the road race and time trial events. She currently rides for the RusVelo team.

One of Russia’s most prominent cyclists, Denis Menchov who retired in May 2013, is under suspension until April 2015 for an adverse biological passport finding.

The UCI also disqualified Menchov from his Tour de France results in 2009, 2010, and 2011; he finished second overall, behind Andy Schleck, in 2010. However, he was not stripped of his 2005 and 2007 Vuelta a España victories, or his 2009 Giro d’Italia title.

Menchov finished 97th in the London Olympic road race and 20th in the time trial.

The same day the documentary aired, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued this statement:

“WADA has seen the German television documentary alleging systematic doping in Russia, and other breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code. WADA will ensure that all matters raised are fully investigated.

WADA has in fact already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international federation, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations.

Insofar as the particular allegations against Russian authorities and others are concerned, these will all be carefully scrutinized and if action is warranted, WADA will take any necessary and appropriate steps under the code.”

Russian cyclist Denis Galimzyanov recently spoke to Russian media about his history with doping. He tested positive for EPO in 2012 in an out-of-competition control after winning a stage of Circuit de la Sarthe earlier that year.

Read more on The Guardian >>