"Tragedy for our sport" - Recommendation for Russia's Olympic exclusion in 2020 likely

Nach langem Tauziehen hat die WADA die Datenbanken des Moskauer Kontrolllabors Anfang des Jahres erhalten - doch womöglich sind sie manipuliert.

ARD interview with Yuri Ganus

"Tragedy for our sport" - Recommendation for Russia's Olympic exclusion in 2020 likely

Russia's top anti-doping hunter Yuri Ganus criticises those wielding the power in Russian sports politics seemingly without  any regard for personal consequences. He claims to be leading his all-round attack after the latest scandal about apparently manipulated laboratory data "in the interest of today's sports generation." Is Ganus an idealist - or is there much more behind it?

At first glance, Yury Ganus is a friend of clear words, which he apparently formulates without regard for his own losses. "This is a real tragedy for our sport", says the head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in an interview with the ARD doping editorial office. In connection with the recent accusations that Russia has manipulated laboratory data on a massive scale, he calls for "totally new decision-makers", brings the resignation of Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov into play and even indirectly admits the existence of a state fraud system in Russian sport.

According to ARD information, investigators of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are still scrutinising the written statement that Russia delivered on the accusations of extensive manipulation of the lab data. Moscow has been given time to answer further questions by October 23. According to investigators, a decision is expected by mid-November at the latest. Should there then be sufficient evidence of deliberately induced manipulation of the laboratory data, those involved in the proceedings expect the recommendation that Russia be excluded at least from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

But when asked about the persistent rumours and speculations that the new scandal could be the result of a perfidious damage limitation plan and that Russia could actually be fine with RUSADA being found non-compliant once again, Yury Ganus says just a single sentence before he goes around the subject on a wide scale: "No, this is not fine."

Yet neutral observers who have closely followed the monstrous events surrounding the Russian manipulations during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and the uncovering of a state doping system by the McLaren Report have already experienced too many crazy twists and false denials for a simple "this is not fine" explanation to suffice.

Everything going according to Russian plan?

The fact that Ganus categorically rejects any involvement of his authority in the manipulations of the huge data set of the Moscow doping laboratory makes the cooking pots in the rumour kitchen boil over. As absurd as it may sound: Theoretically, the latest violations could lead to the exclusion of the Russian Olympic team for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.

This could work: The manipulation of the data sets is followed by a suspension of the RUSADA by the executive branch of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which could theoretically recommend an Olympic ban after a change in the regulations. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), through its German President Thomas Bach, has already indicated that it accepts WADA as the leading organisation of the procedure: "We trust WADA. It is in their hands". Should an Olympic ban be imposed, a Russian appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by return of post would be the expected consequence.

The Lausanne judges could then determine the following: Since the RUSADA cannot be proven to have participated in the most recent fraud, a suspension of the agency would be just as inadmissible as an Olympic ban on the Russian team. The possible culprits in the Sports Ministry and in the Investigative Committee, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin, cannot be identified beyond doubt and in any case do not fall within the jurisdiction of the CAS.

Even subsequent bans against Russian athletes, whose doping samples often attracted attention in the data sets, may be incomparably more difficult to impose as things currently stand. After all, the data set is allegedly manipulated, and no proof of doping can be provided on the basis of manipulated evidence. Perhaps, according to the conspiracy theorists, Russia will be happy to accept the idea of standing there as a manipulator of a database if, in return, it escapes an Olympic exclusion and further bans of its sports stars. It might be the lesser of two evils.

And Yuri Ganus? Is he merely distracting the audience from the what is really going on by – allegedly – criticising Russia from his heart and making noise? This, at least, is what critics estimate could be going on behind the scenes.

Acting like the IPC in 2016?

According to ARD information, however, it is by no means certain that such a strategy would work. Speaking anonymously, figures involved in the proceedings believe that, in the event of a final decision at the International Court of Sport (CAS) on the RUSADA approval and thus possibly also on Russia's participation in the Olympic Games, an example from 2016 could be followed. At that time, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had completely excluded Russia's National Paralympic Organisation (RPC) from the Paralympics in Rio - arguing that the RPC had not implemented the anti-doping rules in its area of responsibility. This ruling was followed by the CAS in 2016 and thus contrasted with the view of the IOC, which had not imposed a general ban on Russian Olympic athletes.

According to ARD information, the presumed manipulations of the Moscow laboratory data may even provide relevant information for doping detection proceedings. The comparison of the allegedly modified or deleted passages in the Russian database with the information already available to international doping investigators on suspicious athletes could at least in individual cases facilitate the identification of doping facts.

"A new person is needed"

Yury Ganus does not want to get involved in such speculations in the ARD interview. He rejects the blame for the current situation far from himself and his authority. "We had no access whatsoever," he says. The data was therefore practically under state protection. "The Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation was responsible for this process." And: " This is one side, another side, this is the Investigation Committee who was responsible to control of database and all materials."

The RUSADA boss indirectly answers the question of whether the Sports Minister, fencing Olympic champion Pavel Kolobkov, should resign with a yes. "It needs a new person who can lead and solve this crisis." At the moment Kolobkov's "mission is finished". And another statement also contains explosives, because the manipulation of the laboratory data can only be explained by a state-orchestrated process: "If we look at it correctly, the database was under the control of a state organisation", he says - and thus indirectly confirms the well-founded suspicion of the state doping cover-up in Russia.

Ganus, head of RUSADA since 2017, presents himself as an idealist in the interview. "I'm working in the interest of today's sports generation," he says. Russia has a "problem with integrity" and needs change. "Real, serious changes."

As things stand now, he assumes that the Russian team will be excluded from the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics.

We have to understand, […] Russian sports authority crushed the process of integration and cooperation, and crushed the trust and transparency with the regulator during the investigation process", says Ganus. “This is a really big problem." He wanted to counteract this with "new approaches", "new decision-makers" and a "zero tolerance culture" in doping.

And he says, "The truth is on my side." Possibly. Possibly not, though.

Stand: 23.10.2019, 17:56