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5 Dec, 2019 15:56

Moscow anti-doping lab’s database was tampered with from the US, independent Russian experts say after WADA finds no interference

Moscow anti-doping lab’s database was tampered with from the US, independent Russian experts say after WADA finds no interference

The database of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory was tampered with during at least a six-month period by its former head, Grigory Rodchenkov, and his collages, who fled to the US, the Russian experts said.

Inconsistencies discovered in the laboratory information management system (LIMS) may see all Russian athletes, including clean ones, competing as neutrals during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and other major sporting events for the next four years. Russia could also be banned from hosting international competitions during that time.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will decide on the fate of Russian sports on December 9. The agency claims it found no traces of interference with the LIMS after November 2015 when Rodchenkov escaped from Russia and became WADA’s main informant in the case against the country.

But independent Russian experts reject WADA’s conclusions, saying their probe established numerous instances of changes and modifications made to the Moscow laboratory’s files. Their 12-page report prepared in late November was obtained by Tass news agency.

After Rodchenkov and his associates – Oleg Migachev and Timofey Sobolevsky – fled to the US, the LIMS was “actually administered via the Internet from Los Angeles (with administrator privileges allowing to make any type of changes and deletions, including making falsifications without leaving evidence.)”

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The manipulations were made between November 2015 and June 2016 – when the database was switched off from the internet. They came from an account called olegmigachev, which had an IP-address registered in California, the report said.

According to the experts, the version of the LIMS stolen by Rodchenkov from the Moscow laboratory, wasn’t used in routine mode in the US, but kept on a data storage device, which opened it up for use by interested parties in attempts to back their “high-profile doping revelations.”

Russian technical experts are unanimous in the opinion that even a shorter period of time is enough to alter any version of LIMS not used in routine fashion (as well as any other software) without leaving any evidence (traces of interference).

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that doping accusations against the country are politically motivated and that it is “unacceptable.”

“There’s a lobby, which is really trying to use any not just facts, any pretexts, or even any anti-facts to squeeze Russia out of international sports,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, adding that this lobby is working hand in hand with the media. She also pointed out that despite known doping violations from other nations, Russia remains the only country penalized.

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A massive doping scandal involving Russia broke out after it topped the medal count at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Allegations were made that a state-run doping program was in place to help Russian athletes win.

Despite the probe, which was headed by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, providing no convincing proof of Russia’s guilt, many of the country’s athletes were slapped with lifetime bans and stripped of medals won in Sochi and other events.

The country’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA, was declared non-compliant, while the Russian track-and-field team faced a blanket ban from the 2016 Rio Summer Games. The Russian athletes were also only allowed to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang under neutral status.

Moscow has fully cooperated with WADA since then – implementing reforms and opening access to its anti-doping laboratory’s files – in order to have its sports fully reinstated on the international level as soon as possible.