Sports fans who demanded justice for Russia’s astonishing doping scandal may have to wait a little longer.
The New York Times is reporting that the World Anti-Doping Agency has agreed to clear 95 of the first 96 Russian athletes whose cases were under review.
WADA’s director general Olivier Niggli wrote in an internal report that,
The available evidence was insufficient to support the assertion of an antidoping rule violation against these 95 athletes.
Last year Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who was then the director of WADA, publicly stated that he was an integral part of a far-reaching, state-sponsored conspiracy to allow Russian athletes to cheat doping tests.
He claimed to have been personally responsible for the medals won by dozens of athletes in the Beijing and London Olympics and even described an elaborate system of urine smuggling employed at the Sochi Olympics — after which all of the samples from Sochi were analyzed and found to have evidence of tampering.
The International Weightlifting Federation wound up barring all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics.
The following December, WADA published 1,166 pieces of evidence, including emails, documents, and forensic analyses, that “effectively proved” a doping system.
It may have seemed like a slam dunk, but now WADA is claiming there’s not enough evidence against the specific athletes. WADA investigator Richard McLaren, who claims to have received death threats for helping identify about a thousand implicated athletes, has indicated that Russia’s “lack of cooperation in providing lab data, and its practice of destroying tainted urine samples that would be plainly incriminating” have contributed to the 95 cases being dropped.
It didn’t help that according to The New York Times report, investigators charged with building cases against the athletes simply didn’t follow up on leads. For instance, none of them pursued interviews Dr. Rodchenkov, who went into hiding in the United States after two senior Russian Anti-Doping Agency officials involved with the scandal, Vyacheslav Sinyev and Nikita Kamaev, died unexpectedly in the same month.
A declaration from WADA against the athletes would not have disqualified the athletes from the Olympics — that’s done by the International Olympic Committee and each sport’s governing body — but their rulings are influential.
We don’t have any of the names or sports of the 96 athletes, but the one who was disciplined was prosecuted because an incriminating urine sample was uncovered.
Given that so many other such samples were destroyed, and given allegations Russia “made it a crime for investigators to enter a certain storage area in the lab containing other samples,” it’s unclear as to whether any more athletes will be facing punishment.
Featured image via @adammaligov on Instagram.