New doping allegations hard to prove, says former WADA chief

Dick-Pound World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) former president Dick Pound | Reuters

Dick Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief who headed an independent commission that uncovered evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia, says new allegations of a drugs cover-up at the Sochi Olympics may be hard to prove.

WADA meetings of its executive committee and foundation board on Wednesday and Thursday have taken on new urgency after whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov said the former head of Russia's drug testing lab told him that at least four Russian gold medal winners at the 2014 Winter Games were using steroids.

Stepanov and wife Yuliya, an international runner for Russia once banned for doping, were the whistleblowers who provided key evidence that led to the establishment of a WADA independent commission that revealed widespread doping in Russia and led to that country being banned from all athletics competition.

WADA announced on Tuesday it would investigate the new allegations and could ask the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for a re-test of the Sochi doping samples.

During an interview with the CBS News investigative programme "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Stepanov, a former employee with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, said he had recorded conversations with Grigory Rodchenkov, RUSADA's former head.

CBS News said it had listened to the tapes in which Rodchenkov brags that at least four Russian athletes won gold medals in Sochi while using steroids.

Skeptical about steroids

Given the sophistication of the state-sponsored doping uncovered by his investigation, Pound was skeptical that, if four medallists did indeed test positive, it would be for steroids.

"They (WADA) could certainly ask the IOC if they would do that (re-test samples)" Pound told Reuters before the start of the WADA meetings.

"By and large with steroids, especially if it is a state-run thing, they are pretty good about the clearance times. It is the not-so-gifted amateurs that sometimes get the clearance times wrong and end up testing positive.

"Generally speaking, if you know when your event is and you test positive, you fail not only the drug test but an IQ test."

Pound said he did not rule out the possibility of returning to take up his role as head of another WADA independent commission, but added that he has not yet been asked.

Before WADA requested a re-test of Sochi samples, Pound felt the first step in any investigation should be another conversation with Rodchenkov, who is believed to be in hiding in the United States.

"They might well do that (ask for a re-test) but I think what they would really prefer to do would be to get hold of Radchenkov," said Pound. "People make it sound like he is in America somewhere. He's a fairly slippery character.

"I interviewed him in Lausanne and there was lots of rolling of eyes and hands drawn across necks and stuff like that.

"He wasn't very forthcoming but I must say our terms of reference were so narrow that we didn't talk about it."

While not connected to athletics, the latest doping allegations will not help Russian efforts to satisfy the International Association of Athletics Federations it has done enough to have its suspension lifted to take part in the Rio Games.

"The more the rot appears to spread, the harder it is for them to develop the kind of credibility they need on this," said Pound.

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Topics : #Doping

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