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by Shane Stokes
November 22, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
The aftershocks from the Russian doping scandal revealed by journalist Hajo Seppelt and his colleagues at the German TV channel ARD and investigated by a WADA Independent Commission continue to rumble.
The Russian laboratory implicated in destroying samples despite being ordered to retain them by WADA has been blocked from carrying out any tests at this point in time.
‘The Moscow laboratory was provisionally suspended by the WADA President last week immediately following the Independent Commission Report, and so at this time the laboratory is not allowed to carry out any anti-doping operations. This includes urine and blood sample analysis,” a WADA spokesman told CyclingTips.
“WADA has formed a disciplinary committee to examine the longer term status of the laboratory. Any samples will now be analysed by other WADA-accredited laboratories, of which there are currently 34 worldwide.”
The lab is not the only entity suspended at this point in time. In recent days WADA has also deemed the National Anti Doping Organisations (NADOs) of five countries to be non-compliant.
Of those, Andorra and Israel were declared non-compliant as they did not have sufficient anti-doping rules in place.
Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine were declared non-compliant for using non-accredited laboratories for their urine and blood sample analysis. This is prohibited under world anti-doping rules.
The omissions are worrying, not least because professional riders either hail from or are based in some of these countries.
The WADA spokesman explained what the implications are for those NADOs.
“They are unable to conduct anti-doping operations, including testing, education, results management and other operations, during non-compliance,” he said. They will only be judged compliant once they have addressed the deficiencies.
“The decision means that testing for athletes from those countries will be conducted by various sports’ international federations, the national anti-doping organizations of other countries, and contracted testing agencies.”
The five countries deemed non-compliant will have to pay for this testing.
However WADA has not yet clarified what will happen in relation to concerns about the Lausanne laboratory and its director Martial Saugy.
WADA’s Independent Commission report concluded that the Lausanne lab had ‘acted contrary to specific instructions’ when it destroyed 67 Russian samples which had been transferred from the Moscow laboratory. WADA had requested the laboratory to retain these samples.
As pointed out by Sportsintegrityinitiative.com, the 323 page report concluded that the commission was “not satisfied with the explanations given for the destruction of the samples transferred from the Moscow laboratory.”
Commission president Richard Pound went further, saying “we got an explanation from the Lausanne Laboratory but we did not believe the explanation.”
At this point in time it has said that it has not discovered evidence to prove “culpable conduct,” but is clearly not happy with the situation.
Saugy has pleaded innocence, telling Swiss media this month that the lab “did nothing illegal and always respected the procedures.”
The lab has claimed that it was not told to retain the samples. It said that of the 67, 55 met the standard for reliable analysis. These were analysed in November 2012 and WADA was informed of the results. The lab then said that it followed normal protocol and later destroyed them, informing WADA in March 2013.
It further claims that it was only later told by WADA to explain their destruction.
What complicates things for Saugy and his reputation are two factors. Firstly, the IC report concluded that he was present in the drug testing laboratory during the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
It described him as a “representative of the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation who was not part of the laboratory Games staff or the IOC medical commission.” It also said that his “role was unclear to the IO.”
He has since confirmed that he was a consultant for the organising committee and that they invited him to the Games.
He has also confirmed that payment was given for the work, although he has insisted that he did not personally receive any of it. Instead, he has said that the money in question went to the Lausanne laboratory.
Even if this is the case, the matter adds to the questions that have cropped up about how that laboratory handled Russian samples in the past.
The second factor that may prompt unease about Saugy is his past interaction with Lance Armstrong and his-then team manager Johan Bruyneel. He met the duo after Armstrong provided a suspicious sample at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.
This sample was just under a threshold that would have seen Armstrong declared positive for EPO, and was regarded as suspect at the time.
Following that, Saugy was instructed by the UCI to meet Armstrong and Bruyneel and to explain the testing process to them.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart was central to the investigation that eventually proved Armstrong used doping products such as EPO for much of his career. He told Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports programme in 2013 that he had met Saugy in 2010 and spoke to him about the matter.
“I asked him: ‘Did you give Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel the keys to beating the EPO test?’” said Tygart. “And he nodded his head yes. He explained it to the two of them.
“As far as I know, it’s unprecedented. It’s totally inappropriate to bring in an athlete with a suspicious test and explain to them how the EPO test works.”
Saugy defended his actions then but, less than three years after Tygart made that statement, he and his laboratory are once again on the defensive.
The hospital where the lab is based, the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois et Université de Lausanne, is currently carrying out an internal investigation.
It is unclear when the results of that will be declared but, until then, the worrying questions about one of the top anti-doping labs in the world will continue.