How could the doping fraud in Russia, which had already been reported in 2010, continue for many years? “Message received.”

In February 2010, during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Vitaly Stepanov met officials of the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA in a hotel. As an employee of Rusada, the Russian doping authority, and husband of athlete Yulia Rusanova he had inside information on the state-controlled doping programs in athletics. Stepanov did not want to remain silent and informed the people of WADA about the dubious practices in his country. But it took more than five years before not WADA but the German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt brought the explosives to explode.

Vitaly Stepanov en Yulia Stepanova
Hajo Seppelt

Why did it take so long before WADA, the guardian of doping-free sport, took action? Six and a half years later there is only one explanation to give: WADA wanted no fuss, no outbreak of doping news with culpable behavior of WADA itself. Because after so many years is clear: WADA has failed in its efforts to create loudly propagated clean sport. How else can it be explained that for years Russia, under the supervision of WADA, could protect drugged athletes?

Was it unwillingness? Ignorance? Or did WADA not have the resources? The latter President Craig Reedie said last month in an interview. “The picture painted by the media that we have done nothing for four years with that information is incorrect. We were informed in patches and the allegations must always be double checked. If you go into business with whistleblowers from a country like Russia, it should lead to hard evidence. And we had nothing of the kind. “

Possibly true, but there was indeed reluctance, as evidenced by a reconstruction in The New York Times in which former WADA director David Howman says that it was the intention to investigate it themselves, but to gather incriminating information and  to pass the information to the appropriate sports federations which are competent to take action. It took a long time before Stepanov was tired of WADA and – on the advice of a WADA employee—contacted Seppelt.

Meanwhile, Russia had made in three consecutive years an additional donation of $ 1.14 million to WADA, on top of the membership fee of $ 746,000, , revealed The New York Times. WADA denied in the newspaper that there was a link between the payment and any special treatment of Russia. For detailed information on the Russian doping fraud in athletics WADA had no interest.

Since his frankness in Vancouver Stepanov had sent two hundred emails to WADA. He informed the anti-doping agency about everything he knew. But nothing happened. The only answer Stepanov received was: ‘Message received. “


Stepanov was not the only source. In December 2012, WADA received a mail from Darya Pisjkalinkova, Russian discus thrower who had won the silver medal at the Games in London four months earlier. She wrote that she had used doping under the authority of the Russian sport authorities. Pisjkalinkova also reported  about the doping structure in her country. She begged WADA to investigate and offered her cooperation. In the email she called Grigori Rodsjenkov, head of the doping laboratory in Moscow, as the one who exchanged contaminated urine for clean urine and  she said she could prove everything. And what does WADA do? Nothing.

Darya Pisjkalinkova
Grigori Rodsjenkov
Olivier Rabin

WADA also remained deaf when on January 11, 2014, in preparation for the Winter Games in Sochi, their scientific director Olivier Rabin conducted an informal conversation with Grigori Rodsjenkov. He confirmed Rabin’s observation that there was often a question of suspected doping analyses in his lab. To which Rodsjenkov added that he was forced from above to do so. Even after this confession WADA did nothing.

WADA only acted after the broadcast of Seppelt’s documentary on 3 December 2014. The sports world was in shock. And WADA was in shock, at least to the outside world. The management board understood that doing nothing would not be accepted any longer. An independent committee was established to investigate the allegations. The president came out of their own circle: Dick Pound, a member of the supervisory board and a former WADA president. A controversial figure because of his boorish remarks on doping.

Pound came up with a devastating report in November 2015: in the Russian athletics State-directed drug fraud was a matter of fact. The international athletics federation IAAF responded upset, but the Russian federation imposed an immediate provisional suspension. The IAAF appointed a commission, headed by the Norwegian Rune Andersen which had to assess if Russia wanted to change the diseased doping culture and would go for drastic improvements.

Dick Pound
Sir Craig Reedie in front of WADA sign 4
Graig Reedie

Andersen’s conclusion after half a year of work: there is hardly any improvement in Russia even after the government had closed the doping laboratory in Moscow and doping authority Rusada was placed under strict supervision. Suspended athletics coaches who had been involved in doping practices continued to function “normally”. The IAAF decided in June to maintain the suspension of Russian athletes, by which they were barred from the Olympics in Rio. A measure that was validated by the sports tribunal CAS, after 68 allegedly clean Russian athletes had claimed the right to start in the Olympics.


On 12 May this year a second Russian doping bomb exploded. Grigori Rodsjenkov fled to the United States and wrote in The New York Times in detail how the Russian state doping system worked. His most shocking revelation was the substitution method of urine samples in the doping laboratory at the Winter Games in Sochi.

Rodsjenkov’s story was confirmed by WADA researcher Richard McLaren, who also discovered that in thirty sports in Russia, somebody messed with urine samples. In total in recent years 634 samples have been obscured.

The published McLaren report shows that doping fraud in Russia is deeply rooted. Since that disclosure also the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in the highest state of readiness. Russian athletes should be kept away from “Rio”? That is the best solution for IOC, but excluding a powerful sports country like Russia from the Games has far-reaching political consequences.

Yulia Stepanova
Rune Andersen