POSTED: June 15th 2016

NEIL WILSON: IOC's ex-medical director named in latest Rodchenkov allegations

Screen shot of the Grigory Rodchenkov letter © ARD Hajo Seppelt
Screen shot of the Grigory Rodchenkov letter © ARD Hajo Seppelt

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The International Olympic Committee is being drawn increasingly close this month to the scandal surrounding the failures of the world's anti-doping authorities to make a level playing field of sport.

In the week when the IAAF will decide whether to ban Russia from track and field competition in Rio by continuing its national federation's suspension, hundreds of Olympic athletes have proclaimed their confidence in the anti-doping system "shattered".

In a letter addressed to IOC president Thomas Bach and WADA president Craig Reedie, signed by the chairs of the IOC Athletes' Commission and the Wada athletes commission, Claudia Bokel and Beckie Scott, they say that "tried and tested procedures and safeguards have proved inadequate".

Commonly overlooked in Hajo Seppelt's latest ARD documentary this month on doping in Russia was a document signed by the former head of the Moscow laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, whose other allegations say Bokel and Beckie deal "heavy blows" to the anti-doping movement.

Rodchenkov's single page of bullet points is screened fleetingly but not followed up by the programme whose primary interest was the continuation of doping in Russian athletics since its international suspension. Seppelt tells me that time restraints with the programme's scheduled airing made it impossible to dig deeper.

But a screen grab of it shows allegations by Rodchenkov that could link the IOC more closely to Russia's circumvention of WADA's best efforts.

In the document, which has almost certainly been made available to WADA investigator Richard McLaren, Rodchenkov makes several claims against former IOC medical director Dr. Patrick Schamasch.

The first is that Natalia Zhelanova, former head of the Russian sport ministry's anti-doping department and newly-appointed adviser on doping to sports minister Vitaly Mutko, was closely involved with Schamasch. "All negotiations and possible outcomes she discussed with Dr Patrick Schamasch", Rodchenkov claims.

He describes Zhelanova as a "close affiliate" of Schamasch, that she "advanced him" to Minister Mutko and that Mutko organised a meeting for Schamasch with President Putin.

"Dr Schamasch promised Mutko, (Yuri) Nagornykh (deputy sports minister) and Zhelanova to facilitate preparations to the Sochi Winter Olympics, negotiate problems with IOC and WADA and relations with the IAAF after the London Olympic Games," says Rodchenkov in his document.

The significance of Zhelanova is that she is the Russian Rodchenkov alleges  was "permanently interfering" in the everyday operation of his laboratory and the Anti-Doping Centre, amending results and liaising with former Russian track and field president  Valentin Balakhnichev (now banned for life by the IAAF)  in "redacting" names of athletes who tested positive. Zjelanova has denied those claims.

Rodchenkov also claims that Schamasch's retirement from the IOC after the London Games was followed by him becoming adviser to IAAF president Lamine Diack, now under police investigation in France for corruption, and to Dr Tamaz Ajan, president of the International Weightlifting Federation. Rodchenkov describes their's as "two of the most dirty Ifs".

I could not make contact with Dr Schamasch to put the claims to him but in his defence it should be said that the IOC medical director might be expected to have close contact with Zhelanova as Russia's head of anti-doping in the build-up to an Olympics in that country.

It should also be said that Seppelt told me in an email that last time he interviewed Rodchenkov he came away believing he "is not a friend of Schamasch".

All of Rodchenkov's claims are being investigated for WADA by McLaren.  He has had him questioned at length at his new home in Los Angeles. So some time before the middle of July when the McLaren report is publication, we shall know the facts.

One thing is certain already.  The last thing the IOC need less than two months out from an Olympic Games is more mud being thrown in its direction on doping. Athletes' faith in the system is already running low.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympics · IOC

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