Will New Revelations Keep the Entire Russian Track and Field Team from the Rio Olympics?

Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov on 60 Minutes
Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov on 60 Minutes. Click on picture to go to video.

On May 8, CBS aired Armen Keteyian‘s interview of Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, Russians who fled to the United States after the world learned that they were the informants to a German documentary on massive state-sponsored doping of athletes in Russia. As a result of that documentary and a subsequent investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the IAAF banned Russian track and field athletes from competing in international competitions, including the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In this interview, Vitaly explained that he had surreptitiously taped a talk with Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who ran the drug-testing lab in Russia and was now in the United States as well because of what he believed was a threat to his life if he stayed. (Two of his colleagues had died unexpectedly in February according to the New York Times.) Rodchenkov said that not only was the state-sponsored doping widespread throughout the Russian government, not only were Russian athletes competing in the Summer Olympics tainted by doping, but at least four gold medal winners of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia doped.

Grigory Rodchenkov
Grigory Rodchenkov

On May 12, the New York Times released an article based on an interview with Rodchenkov, who was introduced by the producer of a documentary on Russia doping. According to the Times, Rodchenkov developed a “three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor” that helped potentially dozens of Russian athletes, and that some of Russia’s biggest names in cross-country skiing and bobsledding at the Sochi Games were given this cocktail.

Rodchenkov also actively covered up the doping by ensuring tainted urine would not be tested. Here’s how the Times explained the operation:

In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence services surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said. By the end of the Games, Dr. Rodchenkov estimated, as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged.

hole in the wall
The hole in the wall (covered by a removable cap) through which tainted urine samples were passed and replaced by clean samples during the Sochi Games, according to Dr. Rodchenkov. NY Times

The big question hanging over the Rio Olympics is whether the ban on the entire Russian track and field team would be lifted in time for competition at the Games starting on August 5. According to the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, in the 60 Minutes piece, this new information from Rodchenkov does not bode well.

Look, it’s a stunning revelation. And if true it’s a devastating blow to the Olympic values. It’s clearly the final nail in the coffin for Russian track and field.