Doping Top Secret: testing at the Olympics unsafe?

Doping Top Secret: testing at the Olympics unsafe? Sportschau 07.10.2018 06:09 Min. Verfügbar bis 07.10.2019 Das Erste

Doping Top Secret: testing at the Olympics unsafe?

Von Hajo Seppelt, Jürgen Kleinschnitger, Josef Opfermann and Jörg Winterfeldt

The International Olympic Committee always insists it leads a "zero tolerance" approach towards doping. ARD, however, has received video material which shows that there have been grave security breaches and a lack of attentiveness regarding doping controls at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The validity of test results might therefore be contestable.

Thomas Bach, hailing from Würzburg, son of a textile trader, has always used his education as a lawyer with a doctoral degree, to be able to defend himself in any situation. After all, this is how he – stemming from a rather humble and simple background – made it to the very top of the International Olympic Committee, IOC.

When several Russian athletes, which his Committee had allegedly wanted to ban from competition, suddenly started to successfully sue for their right to compete, the lawyer from Tauberbischofsheim knew how to sell it as a positive learning experience. "Despite the difficult situation there is also the beautiful side of life", he claimed in South Korea, "because we can learn from it and it can be the beginning of changes within the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, the CAS, Court of Arbitration for Sport, and within the IOC".

Irregular circumstances

Doping Control Formular

His words certainly had a ring to them. They were supposed to signal to the world only the best intentions. And, like so many times before, the lawyer made sure to not phrase his words too clearly so that no one would be able to later pin him down on his statement. ARD's research now shows that the procedure of doping controls in Pyeongchang questions whether there is a willingness to learn and improve in the fight against doping. Bach's statements could even sound hypocritical in hindsight.

The ARD's doping editorial team has received video material from within the doping control rooms in Pyeongchang from an athlete's assistant. The pictures show that the assistant had been left alone in the control room unsupervised. He was therefore free to go through confidential documentation and even open an unlocked fridge containing doping samples. Testing material is strewn around everywhere.

It would have been no problem at all to manipulate, steal or destroy documents or samples. Several similar video recordings give the impression that these kinds of circumstances might actually have been the rule rather than the exception.

"Great chance of acquittal"

Sports insiders have confirmed to the ARD's doping editorial team that they had similar experiences in South Korea. All the experts to whom the ARD doping editorial team presented the recordings are appalled. The film may compromise the validity of samples taken in Pyeongchang. "Here in the case where I can actually prove by video that the laboratory did not function properly that the minimum standards, set by WADA, are not adhered to. You can say there is a big chance of acquittal," concludes the German sports law expert Michael Lehner from Heidelberg, "there isn't an easier defence. Every sample that was in the doping laboratory there is useless."

Four sinners in Pyeongchang should hear these revelations with keen interest. During the Winter Games, the Japanese short tracker Kei Saito tested positive for the prohibited diuretic acetazolamide. The Slovenian ice hockey player Žiga Jeglič was found to be taking the asthma drug fenoterol. The Russian curler Alexander Alexandrovich Kruschelnitsky tested positive for the banned heart drug Meldonium and the Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Viktorovna Sergeyeva was taken out of competition because of the illicit use of the heart medication trimetazidine. All four were excluded from the event.

Rather reluctant to draw lessons

Thomas Bach auf einer Pressekonferenz

IOC-President Thomas Bach

For the IOC's president Bach, the new findings will have a devastating effect because the Olympics in Pyeongchang were seen as a test to ascertain whether the IOC can guarantee clean athletes fair competition with a safe doping control system. After all, at the previous Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, a state-organised manipulation system of the Russians had embarrassed the IOC to the bone and robbed the games of their credibility. In addition, shortly before the games in Pyeongchang, the ARD doping editorial team had demonstrated how susceptible the allegedly securely sealed doping containers were to manipulation.

But obviously the responsible persons on site were rather reluctant to learn their lessons - despite all the pious announcements of their German president. The Swiss sports physician Lukas Weisskopf was a team doctor at the games and also experienced the similar controls. He was shocked when he examined the videos: "conditions should not be like this," he says, "everything is open, isn't it? Everything open. You can manipulate everything, you could take everything away, you could take the barcodes. Madness".

51 page-long report

"In my opinion it should not be allowed to leave the control room unwatched", says the German doping controller and anti-doping expert Volker Laakmann, "that is definitely not okay, especially when samples have been taken and documentation is lying around".

The one institution, which is to take the lead in the worldwide anti-doping fight, is trying first and foremost to delegate the blame for the grievances elsewhere. The IOC is responsible for performing doping controls at the Olympics, the WADA reports. However, it does not seem to have looked closely at the IOC as an inspection authority either. WADA always sends an independent team of observers. In its report there are some indications that not everything went perfectly, but it notably holds back from delivering stronger criticisms.

The WADA delegates also noted "unlocked refrigerators" and "unguarded entrances", but dismissed them as "isolated" cases. ARD, on the other hand, has numerous videos with similar content. The WADA watchdogs, however, quintessentially stated in their 51-page report that they were "generally satisfied" with the control arrangements and "congratulates all concerned on the considerable investments, efforts and opportunities that were seized upon to protect clean sport".

Doping controllers have to pair their trips

In professional circles this must sound like pure mockery but not only because of the conditions in control stations. While Olympic officials prefer to fly first class, collect lavish daily rates and stay in South Korea in a hotel, described as an "alpine luxury resort in Pyeongchang", several doping controllers had to finance their own journey to the games. "Inspectors who flew there paid for it out of their own pocket," says Andrea Gotzmann, head of the National Anti-Doping Agency Germany, NADA. "I know colleagues from Norway who refused to because they are offering a professional service that must be funded accordingly". In response to a request from ARD, the IOC declared that it is not responsible for the travel expenses regulation for doping controllers but that it might be a topic for future discussion.

NADA CEO Andrea Gotzmann, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, complains, "it shocks me actually that at one of the biggest sporting events in the world, anti-doping still lacks professionalism. It has to be worked on meticulously and precautions have to be made for the next Olympic games to see how best to finance it".

Stand: 07.10.2018, 16:30