By Tom Williams ,AFP
LONDON — Russia hijacked international sport by using more than 1,000 athletes in an “institutional conspiracy” to win medals at the Sochi and London Olympics and other global events, a top investigator said Friday. Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who has previously accused Russia of “state-sponsored” cheating, said in a new report for the World Anti-Doping Agency that he had confirmed the switching of samples at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 and that salt and coffee were used to manipulate samples. More than 1,000 athletes in the summer and winter Olympics and Paralympics “can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive testing,” his report said. Information on 695 Olympic athletes had been sent to sports federations. “Well known and elite level athletes” were among competitors whose tests were “falsified.” “A cover-up that evolved over the years from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy,” McLaren said as he introduced his report. Russia’s sports ministry again denied state backing for doping. But the report said the campaign that started about 2011 came under official control from 2012 under then sports minister Vitaly Mutko amid fears that the cheating would be detected. “An institutional conspiracy existed across summer and winter sports athletes who participated with Russian officials within the ministry of sport and its infrastructure,” said McLaren.
“These activities were supported by senior Russian officials, including the minister and deputy minister of sport.” Corrupted Olympics About 30 sports including soccer were involved, officials added. But doping was rife in Russian athletics and weightlifting. Mutko, who has denied any involvement, was not personally named. He was barred from going to the Rio Olympics by the International Olympic Committee in August but has since been promoted to deputy prime minister by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mutko blasted the latest McLaren revelations. “We see confirmation of the first (part of the report) which deal with geopolitics, with some sort of conspiracy against world sport. And these accusations are only targeting Russia,” he told TASS news agency. “Our sport is under control of the British anti-doping agency, of international sports organizations. And they did not uncover any conspiracy. If there was one, it was by the director of the laboratory.” McLaren told AFP in an interview that there was no evidence that Putin knew of the doping.