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More than 1,000 Russian athletes across at least 30 sports benefited from a state-sponsored doping program between 2011 and 2015, according to a bombshell report released Friday.
The athletes — some who snagged gold medals at two previous Olympics — even engaged in swapping dirty urine for clean samples. In one extreme case, two female ice hockey players were caught with urine samples containing male DNA.
“The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play,” said the report by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was spearheaded by investigator Richard McClaren.
The 151-page report points to DNA evidence and says Russian athletes and government officials were involved in a huge “institutional conspiracy” to dole out performance-enhancing drugs to the athletes and consequently cover up the evidence.
The findings expand on a preliminary report WADA issued in July and will be passed on to the International Olympic Committee.
IOC had controversially refrained from issuing a complete ban on Russian athletes during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — and with 271 out of the country’s 389 Olympic athletes allowed to compete, the scandal cast a shadow over the games.
The report could also renew calls for Russia to be barred from the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
After its release, Russian officials insisted to state media that there was still no definitive proof of a widespread doping scandal and denied that proof exists.
"These allegations of McLaren's are completely baseless, not backed by a single confirmed fact," said Lev Seleznev, member of the executive committee of the Russian Paralympic Committee.
But the report's key findings aren't letting the Russians off the hook:
Not just athletes
State agencies were also involved in the cheating. Those include the FSB intelligence service, the Russian anti-doping agency and the Russian Sports Ministry.
How it happened
McClaren pointed to DNA evidence showing dirty urine samples were routinely swapped for clean ones. In one case, samples belonging to two female ice hockey players contained male DNA. Other samples were diluted with coffee granules and salt. Most of the names of the athletes were redacted from the report but were passed on to appropriate sports organizations.
It was an elaborate operation
During the Sochi Olympics in 2014, urine samples were smuggled by an FSB agent out of a lab. The tamper-proof lids were then removed in a special way to not break the seal. The contaminated urine was then swapped with the athlete’s clean urine sample and snuck back into the lab.
2012 London Olympics
Fifteen out of 78 medal winners have been implicated in the doping scandal, of which 10 have been stripped of their medals. That includes two athletes who won four gold medals.
2014 Sochi Olympics
Twelve medal-winning athletes had urine samples in which there was evidence they were tampered with. In addition, six out of 21 medal winners’ urine samples in the Paralympic games had evidence of tampering.