LONDON >> Russia’s sports reputation was ripped apart again Friday when a new report into systematic doping detailed a vast “institutional conspiracy” that covered more than 1,000 athletes in over 30 sports and corrupted the drug-testing system at the 2012 and 2014 Olympics.
The findings were handed over to the International Olympic Committee, which will be under pressure to take action against the Russians ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren said. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived.”
McLaren’s second and final report said the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, providing further details of state involvement in a massive program of cheating and cover-ups that operated on an “unprecedented scale” from 2011-15.
The Canadian law professor described the Russian doping program as “a cover-up that evolved over the years from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy.”
The findings confirmed much of the evidence contained in McLaren’s first report issued in July, while expanding the number of athletes involved and the overall scope of the cheating program in the sports powerhouse.
“Over 1,000 Russian athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sport can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests,” McLaren said.
The names of those athletes, including 600 summer sports competitors, have been turned over to international federations to pursue disciplinary sanctions, he said.
The 144-page report provided further forensic evidence of manipulation of samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where sealed doping bottles were opened with special tools by intelligence agents and tainted urine was replaced with clean urine to beat the drug-testing system.
Russians who won 15 medals in Sochi had their samples tampered with, including two athletes who won four gold medals, McLaren found.
The report also found the Russian doping program corrupted the 2012 London Olympics on an “unprecedented scale.” While no Russians tested positive at the time of the games, McLaren said the sports ministry gave athletes a “cocktail of steroids … in order to beat the detection thresholds at the London lab.”
The report said 15 Russian medal winners in London had been on a list of athletes who had been protected by Russian officials from testing positive before the games. Ten of those athletes have since had their London medals stripped after their samples were retested.
Declaring that McLaren’s findings detailed “a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general,” the IOC said it would retest samples of all Russian athletes who competed in Sochi and London.
IOC President Thomas Bach said any athlete or official involved “in such as sophisticated manipulation system” should be banned for life from the Olympics.
The Russian Sports Ministry said it was studying the report and denied the country had any state-sponsored doping system.
McLaren’s first report, issued in July, led WADA to recommend that Russia be excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The IOC rejected calls for an outright ban, allowing international federations to decide which Russians could compete.
The IOC has two separate commissions that will study McLaren’s report and make recommendations to the executive board for sanctions. While a blanket ban on Pyeongchang would seem unlikely, the IOC has indicated it will impose stiff sanctions.
“We now have detailed information which will allow us to take serious decisions, so let’s take them,” WADA President Craig Reedie, who is also an IOC member, told The Associated Press. “If you look at the statements made by the IOC, it seems to be pretty likely they will take the appropriate decisions.”
Other findings in the report include:
— Six Russian athletes who won a total of 21 medals at the Sochi Paralympics had their urine samples tampered with.
— Two female hockey players at the Sochi Olympics had samples that contained male DNA.
— Eight Sochi samples had salt content that was physiologically impossible in a healthy human.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart called McLaren’s report “another staggering example of how the Olympic movement has been corrupted and clean athletes robbed by Russia’s state-supported doping system.”
Tygart said the Russian Olympic Committee should be suspended and no international sporting events should be held in Russia until its anti-doping program is in line with global rules.
While the report again accused the Russian Sports Ministry, it found no evidence of involvement of the Russian Olympic Committee. The IOC had repeatedly cited the fact that the national Olympic committee was not implicated in defending its decision not to ban the entire Russian team from the Rio Games.
McLaren’s first report set off bitter divisions and infighting in the Olympic movement and those recriminations have dragged on since the Rio Games.
“I find it difficult to understand why were at not on the same team,” he said. “We should all be working together to end doping in sports.”
McLaren opened his investigation earlier this year after Moscow’s former doping lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, told The New York Times that he and other officials were involved in an organized doping program for Russian athletes. He detailed how tainted samples were replaced with clean urine through a concealed “mouse hole” in the wall of the Sochi lab.
The new report further backs Rodchenkov’s account. McLaren’s investigation found scratches and other marks left on the doping bottles. WADA investigators were able to recreate the method used by the Russians to pry open the sealed bottle caps.
The report also detailed how some Russian samples were diluted with salt or even coffee granules.
“The report has proved without a shadow of a doubt there was organized manipulation of the doping process in Russia,” Reedie said. “Now the challenge is for Russia, first of all to admit that the report is worthy, and second to make sure they change their process so this does not happen again.”
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, the former sports minister in charge during the London and Sochi Olympics, said Russia would take legal action in response to the report. It was not clear what course any legal action might take.
Asked how he would respond to Russian critics, McLaren said: “I would say, ‘read the report.’”