Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports, claims a new report.
It was “planned and operated” from late 2011 – including the build-up to London 2012 – and continued through the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics until August 2015.
An investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) says Russia’s sports ministry “directed, controlled and oversaw” manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.
It says Russian athletes benefited from what the report called the “Disappearing Positive Methodology”, whereby positive doping samples would go missing.
The commission, led by Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Dr Richard McLaren, looked into allegations made by the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory.
Grigory Rodchenkov claimed he doped dozens of athletes before the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were held in Sochi, Russia.
Rodchenkov also alleged he had been helped by the Russian secret service.
He claimed they had worked out how to open and reseal supposedly tamper-proof bottles that were used for storing urine samples so the contents could be replaced with “clean” urine.
McLaren sent a random amount of stored samples from “protected Russian athletes” at Sochi 2014 to an anti-doping laboratory in London to see if they had scratch marks around the necks of the bottles that would indicate they had been manipulated.
McLaren said “100% of the bottles had been scratched” but added that would “not have been visible to the untrained eye”.
He said he had “unwavering confidence” in all of his findings.
The damning report will fuel calls for a complete ban on Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics, which start in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on 5 August.
BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent Richard Conway:
“It’s a lot worse than people were expecting. I’ve read through some of the report and 580 positive tests were covered up across 30 different sports. We are into the world of James Bond-style espionage.”
United States Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart:
“The McLaren Report has concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government that goes right to the field of play… and most importantly, our hearts go out to athletes from all over the world who were robbed of their Olympic dreams.”
British Olympic 400m silver medallist Roger Black on BBC Radio 5 live:
“It’s about as bad as it could possibly be. I’m not naive, I know certain people will take drugs, but I’ve always said this is a minority of people. The problem now, when you’re looking at a Russian athlete, is you won’t be thinking that.”
British distance runner Jo Pavey:
“It’s just awful. You feel sorry for any clean athletes in Russia who have put their hearts and souls into qualifying for the Olympics. At the same time, so many are in this system that a strong message needs to be sent out.”
UK Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead:
“Now is the time for the entire sporting community to come together to find a way forward and ensure the right processes, legislation and safeguards are in place to protect the rights of all athletes to clean, fair and honest competition.”
Why was the report commissioned?
The commission was set up to look into Rodchenkov’s claims that he doped dozens of athletes, including at least 15 medallists, in the build-up to Sochi.
He claims this was the result of an elaborate and orchestrated plot with the Russian government, which exploited its host status to subvert the drug-testing programme. The country’s government has repeatedly denied the claims.
Rodchenkov, now in hiding in the US, also alleges that he doped athletes before the 2012 Olympics in London, the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2015 World Swimming Championships in Kazan.
How will Russia react?
The country’s media had anticipated a bad outcome from the commission.
News website Gazeta.ru said the report could mark the start of “the most difficult week in the history of Russian sport”, while newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reckoned the entire Olympic movement faced its “darkest” day.
Sports news website Sport Ekspress felt the report could have “irreversible consequences for Russia for years to come”, but popular sports website Championat.ru claimed the investigation was a co-ordinated anti-Russian plot.
Are some Russians banned already?
Yes. The country’s track and field athletes are barred from competing in Rio after the body that governs world athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations, voted in June to maintain a global competition ban on the All-Russia Athletic Federation (Araf).
Araf hopes to overturn the suspension and will find out by Thursday if its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been successful.
Whatever happens, a small number of Russian athletes who can prove they are clean will be allowed to compete at the Rio Games under the flag of the International Olympic Committee.