July 19, 2016 - 3:47pm
Widespread doping and manipulation of tests by Russian athletes and officials at the Sochi Olympics, overseen by the ministry of sport, was confirmed by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday, further fuelling calls for a complete ban on the country from the Rio Games.
According to the WADA's independent commission report, which was led by Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Richard McLaren and unveiled at a Toronto news conference, a Moscow laboratory protected Russian athletes during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
McLaren, who was a member of WADA's independent commission which last year exposed widespread doping and corruption in Russian athletics, leading to the ban on Russian track and field athletes from Rio, said the Russian Ministry of Sport oversaw the manipulation of athletes' analytical results and sample swapping.
The report addressed accusations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.
Rodchenkov claimed that up to 15 Russian medal winners at the Sochi Winter Games were part of a programme in which tainted urine samples were switched for clean ones.
According to McLaren, Rodchenkov and all other witnesses interviewed were deemed credible and the personnel at the Moscow laboratory did not have a choice in whether to be involved in the state-directed system.
Many organisations, including the United States Anti-Doping agency, have said that the Sochi revelations should lead to a blanket ban on Russia.
However, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) indicated last week that he was reluctant to see athletes from one sport punished for the crimes of those, or officials, from another.
Russian President Vladimir Putin staked his reputation on the Sochi Games, which at around $50 billion (£37.7 billion) was the most expensive in Olympic history. Russia topped the medal table with 13 gold medals and 33 overall.
WADA appointed McLaren in May to lead the probe after some observers voiced concerns about a conflict of interest given that the allegations related to the Sochi Olympics and that WADA is funded by the International Olympic Committee.