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State doping in Russia?

December 4, 2014

Systematic doping is rife in Russian athletics and positive tests are routinely ignored by coaches and the authorities, according to claims made in a German television documentary.

A syringe filled with blood
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The 60-minute film "Top secret doping - how Russia makes its winners?" on national broacaster ARD featured first-hand accounts and secret footage taken by former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) employee Vitaly Stepanov and his wife, Yuliya Stepanova, a middle distance runner.

Stepanova, who is banned until January for a doping violation, accuses leading sport physician Sergey Portugalov of supplying banned products in exchange for five percent of her earnings.

"You must dope, that's how it works in Russia," Stepanova told ARD. "You need aid in order to get medals, and doping is this aid."

Stepanov explained that "control officers" would be willing to accept money to "hush up" any positive testing of Russian athletes. According to the film, the couple have left Russia due to their allegations.

Savinova in the spotlight

Also in the documentary, 2012 Olympic 800 metres champion Mariya Savinova is seen in mobile phone footage taking the banned substance Oxandrolon. Her face is covered, but ARD says they possess the unedited version of the footage. Savinova and her coach Vladimir Kazarin both refused to comment to ARD.

Mariya Savinova with her coach at the London 2012 Olympics
Mariya Savinova and her coach Vladimir Kazarin get a mention in the documentaryImage: Getty Images/S. Lecka

"Most athletes dope, around 99 percent. And you get everything," alleges discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina in one clip. "The least detectable the drug, the more expensive it is."

Three-time Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova, who is currently serving a doping ban, is filmed claiming she bought her place on the Russian team for the London Olympics in 2012 with a 450,000 euro payment to her coach. Shobukhova says Alexey Melnikov, one of the head coaches of Russian elite athletes,demanded the money to ensure officials turned a blind eye to a doping violation from 2011. Melnikovrefused to comment to ARD.

The head of Russia's anti-doping federation, Nikita Kamaev, dismissed the allegations.

"All athletes who make such claims have infringed doping regulations in the past," he said in the documentary. "Such people then contact journalists and tell stories. For professionals, such stories are only laughable."

'Protecting the fearless'

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) described the documentary as "shocking."

"What we have to do now is to tackle this without fear and to make sure that those who were fearless are protected," Howman added.

Richard Pound, a founding member of WADA, described the Russian case as "comprehensive and extremely alarming." He added that the evidence disclosed will "damage the credibility" of sports and the fight against doping. "Now we must reflect on the evidence," Pound said.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it had seen the documentary (entitled Geheimsache Doping - Wie Russland seine Sieger macht in German). The organization said it would "ensure all matters raised are fully investigated."

rd/pwh (AP, dpa, ARD)