Journalist who exposed Russian doping scandal calls for UCI anti-doping commission clean-up

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He’s the German journalist who caused a massive upheaval in the world of athletics when he exposed systematic doping within Russia. Now, as the fallout from his expose continues, Hajo Seppelt has said he believes the head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Nikita Kamaev, cannot retain his position on the UCI’s anti-doping commission.

Update [November 24]: Kamaev suspended from UCI Anti-Doping Commission after Russian athletics scandal

That commission is headed by the Portugese Artur Lopes. Kamaev, Chris Jarvis (Great Britain) and Marjolaine Viret (Switzerland) make up the remainder of the four-member commission, having been appointed by the UCI management committee.

Seppelt spoke to CyclingTips on Thursday and said he was stunned to hear that Kamaev was on the commission.

“This is a really serious problem,” he said. “I can’t imagine it will take a long time before the UCI has to react to that.”

Seppelt and his colleagues at the German network ARD worked for months to expose widespread doping within Russian sport. They drew on testimony provided by whistleblowers, including former RUSADA employee Vitaly Stepanov, and painted a picture of widespread corruption.

This led to the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) setting up an Independent Commission to look into the allegations.

Earlier this month that commission published a 323 page report which agreed with many of ARD’s findings. It also accused the Russian government of aiding that doping program, and said that RUSADA doping control officers “routinely accept bribes from athletes” and “provide advance notice of out of competition tests.”

As a consequence of that, RUSADA was declared non-compliant and suspended.

The commission also concluded that, “RUSADA believes that the information provided [by Stepanov] in the interview shapes up a negative image of Nikita Kamaev and RUSADA on the whole.”

Asked if he believed that Kamaev was aware of the doping issue, Seppelt said that he found it hard to believe otherwise.

“I don’t know that for sure, but he is one of the leading guys in RUSADA, so I cannot imagine that he was not aware about that,” he said.

“Vitaly Stepanov was not working with him. I don’t know what happened after Vitaly left in 2011 but, as things continued at least partially at RUSADA, I cannot imagine that Kamaev had no clue about anything. But, again, I have no proof of that.”

Still, despite not being able to say definitively that Kamaev was involved, Seppelt doesn’t see how he can continue on the anti-doping commission.

“I think if you work in an organisation like RUSADA and you are called non-compliant, and if you read the Independent Commission report about the failures of RUSADA, and if you know that Mr Kamaev is one of the top officials in RUSADA, then from my understanding you cannot understand why he shouldn’t be aware of what happened in RUSADA.

“So there is a clear doubt that he is a person who should be on an anti-doping commission. We are talking about the anti-doping commission, not a financial commission or whatever. From my point of view, it is unacceptable [that he continues].

“This is not a personal criticism from my side. It is just a belief that I cannot imagine that was not aware of that.”

Asked if he believed that cycling was involved in the Russian scandal, Seppelt said that he had no knowledge of that. “I have absolutely no information about wrongdoing in cycling in Russia in relation to RUSADA – based in this particular investigation.”

In order to provide a clearer picture, WADA’s Athlete Committee Chair Beckie Scott has called on WADA to expand the Independent Commission’s mandate to examine all sports in Russia.

Also see: Why whistleblowers are crucial for cycling and other sports: part 1

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