"Probably the darkest day in sport in terms of doping" - State-sponsored doping casts doubt over Russian Olympic participation

Chief sports reporter for The Times Martyn Ziegler reflects on the McLaren report and systematic doping

Russia, Olympics, Doping

Image: Matthias Schrader / AP/Press Association Images

Russia operated state-sponsored doping programme at Sochi 2014 Winter Games, according to a new report released today.

The investigation, chaired Richard McLaren, says that the Russian sports ministry "directed, controlled and oversaw" manipulation and tampering of urine samples provided by athletes.

Allegations were made by Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of Russia's anti-doping lab, and claims he doped dozens of athletes prior to the games.

He claimed that dozens of athletes, including at least 15 medallists at the 2014 Olympics, were part of an extensive state-run doping programme.

 FSB (the Russian federal security service) CSP (Centre of Sports Preparation in Russia)

McLaren said that the report's key findings proves have been proven "beyond reasonable doubt"  and insisted he had "unwavering confidence" in the report.

The state-sponsored cheating happened after an "abysmal" medal count at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, WADA said. 

The cheating involved clean urine being frozen and switched for doped urine, often passed through secret holes in laboratories.  

Speaking on tonight's Off The Ball, chief sports reporter for The Times Martyn Ziegler gave some information about how these tests were tampered with.

 "There was a small tunnel, available for someone to insert their arm to pass through it with a doping sample bottle. So it was the width of somebody's arm and it was passed out through the wall of the laboratory to an officer from the Russian secret service (FSB) who had learned how to open these supposedly tamper proof bottles and replace the contents with clean urine.

"In some ways it's probably the darkest day in sport in terms of doping, but you could also argue that it is the brightest day in sport in terms of doping because it uncovered this incredible system that has been going on and was even going on when inspectors were there for the athletics inquiry.

"They were so sure that they couldn't be caught out that this system was still going on. One can only hope that this is the bottom and that now the only way is up."

Russia's track and field athletes are already banned from the Olympic Games in Rio, beginning this summer.

Wada do not have the authority to impose bans on athletes, but have recommended that governing bodies or the IOC to do so.

The independent findings will increase pressure for all Russians - not just those in track and field events - to be banned from the games in Brazil.    

The Wada report looked primarily into Russia's conduct at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, but also at other world events.

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