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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

“State-sponsored” doping: A transition from the former Soviet Union to present day Russia

Department of Applied Health Science, Murray State University, Murray, KY 42071-3347, USA

Date of Web Publication1-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Michael I Kalinski
Department of Applied Health Science, Murray State University, Murray, KY 42071-3347
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/bjhs.bjhs_54_16

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How to cite this article:
Kalinski MI. “State-sponsored” doping: A transition from the former Soviet Union to present day Russia. BLDE Univ J Health Sci 2017;2:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Kalinski MI. “State-sponsored” doping: A transition from the former Soviet Union to present day Russia. BLDE Univ J Health Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jun 3];2:1-3. Available from: https://www.bldeujournalhs.in/text.asp?2017/2/1/1/207429

The doping problem is broad, wide- ranging. An issue of “state-sponsored” doping is of course at heart and focus of doping at this current moment of history. Some of the aspects of its largely misunderstood. For a person, who never lived under totalitarian regime, it is hard to get inside the brains of both the totalitarian leaders and their victims-ordinary citizens, which in this case are athletes. Anabolic steroids are drugs that resemble the male hormone testosterone. Athletes use them to gain weight, strength, power, speed, endurance, and aggressiveness. Testosterone was synthesized in 1934, and its use has been controversial ever since. Steroids improve physical performance and body composition provided the dose is high enough. Side effects increase with dose and steroid use might cause heart disease, cancer, and premature death in some people. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) began to formulate its anti-doping policies in the 1960s. Their basic philosophy was to (1) protect the athletes' health, (2) defend medical and sports ethics, and (3) provide an equal chance for all in a competition. In 1968, the IOC began the first large-scale drug-testing program at the Grenoble Winter Olympics and the Mexico City Summer Olympics.

The former Soviet Union began participating in the Olympic Games after World War II, beginning with the Helsinki games in 1952, and soon achieved a dominant position in these sporting competitions. The success of Soviet athletic programs was astounding. It was one of the most successful sport programs of all time. Suspicion of anabolic-androgenic steroid use by athletes in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was rampant as early as the 1960s. Athletic success in Olympic Games provided extensive privileges in the USSR for the elite athletes, coaches, scientists, and sport officials. These privileges included prestige at the state level, expensive gifts, cars, apartments, state stipends, increased salaries, and extensive travel abroad.

The security measures that could be used routinely in totalitarian societies are difficult to appreciate in Western countries. During the 1940s through the 1980s, authorities in those totalitarian countries would have punished any scientist, journalist, athlete, or coach who published revelations about steroid use in elite sport.

By 2002, new revelations came from a secret documents from the former Soviet Union outlining state-sponsored use of anabolic steroids (Kalinski, M. I., Kerner M. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, (2002), 53, N1, 7–14). Next year, another article described state-sponsored research on blood doping in elite Soviet sport (Kalinski M.I. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (USA), 46: N3, 445-451, summer 2003).

In 1972, the State Central Institute of Physical Culture disseminated a classified document that outlined the Soviet research on steroids and recommendations for use steroids in sports. The document contains a series of scientific reports providing the times and dosages for the administration of androgenic-anabolic steroids to human subjects (athletes) and data from experiments conducted at the Research Laboratory of Training Programming and Physiology of Sport Performance of the State Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow. It is obvious from the State Central Institute of Physical Culture's report that experiments with anabolic-androgenic steroids using athletes as subjects had occurred in the former USSR by 1971–1972 or earlier.

All orders to organize and finance such research were given in a highly centralized system. Research into the medical and biological aspects of sport was an integral part of the athletic agenda in the former Soviet Union. It was conducted in more than 28 State Institutes of Physical Education and State Research Institutes of Physical Culture. It is unlikely that crucial decisions about financing and implementation of research programs on androgenic-anabolic steroids by the State Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow were made without the knowledge and consent of governmental officials.

Some may argue that androgenic-anabolic steroid use is widespread and that the current situation in the West is no different from what occurred in the former Soviet Union. There is, however, an important difference between the former USSR and Western countries in this regard. In the West, governments do not finance human subject research on steroids to enhance athletic performance. Use of these substances is prohibited and not encouraged. Athletes who choose to use steroids are doing so on their own initiative, without the support or consent of government agencies.

The document from the State Central Institute of Physical Culture made clear that within the former USSR, there was a completely different situation - a government-sponsored scientific effort, which apparently did not follow the accepted norms for treatment of human subjects. By governmental agencies, circulating the research report among elite State Sport Institutions in the former Soviet Union, sport officials, coaches, and athletes were being advised, recommended, and encouraged to use androgenic-anabolic steroids.

The classified document, published for the first time by the author of this editorial, proves the existence of state-sponsored studies on the effect of anabolic-androgenic steroids on athlete's morphological, biochemical, physiological variables, and athletic performance conducted in the former Soviet Union. The studies were performed in the Research Laboratory of Training Programming and Physiology of the Sport Performance at the State Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow, and could not have been enacted and financed without government orders. Recommendations for steroid use for different sports were given, particularly for elite athletes specializing in endurance and strength-dependent sports.

The results and recommendations obtained from these studies on androgenic-anabolic steroids were secretly circulated among elite sport institutions in the former USSR. This information was classified and accessible only to selected professionals.

The doping problem, however, transitioned from the former Soviet Union to present day Russia.

On May 19, 2016, the Executive Board of the IOC, World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) announced the appointment of Professor McLaren as the WADA independent person (IP) Report. The IP was to conduct an investigation of the allegations made by the former Director of the Moscow Laboratory (Russia), Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov published in The New York Times on May 12, 2016 and aired as a segment of the 60 min television program on May 08, 2016.

The condensed timeframe to produce the first report prevented the IP investigation team from examining all of the data available to it at that time. Therefore, the IP made the decision to restrict the first report to the data it had fully examined.

The first WADA IP report was released on July 16, 2016, following by the statement of the Executive Board of the IOC on July 18, 2016.

The first IP Report key findings were:

  1. “The Moscow Laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, described in the report as the disappearing positive methodology
  2. The Sochi Laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the games
  3. The Ministry of Sport of Russia directed, controlled, and oversaw the manipulation of athlete's analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) (secret police), Center of Sports Preparation (CSP), and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.”

The first IP report claims that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping program for 4 years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports. As a result of McLaren report, WADA recommended all Russian athletes be banned from competing from the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. Russia's entire track and field team was banned from the Rio Games. A total of 271 Russian athletes from an original list of 389 were banned from Rio 2016 Olympics, but International Paralympic Committee chose to ban the Russian team entirely from the Paralympics in September 2016.

The second WADA IP report (released on December 09, 2016) details the work of investigative team conducted between July and November 2016. It sharpens the picture and confirmed the findings of the first report.

The key findings of the second WADA IP Report:

  1. An institutional conspiracy existed across summer and winter sports athletes who participated with Russian officials within the Ministry of Sport and its infrastructure, such as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, CSP, and the Moscow Laboratory, along with the FSB for the purposes of manipulating doping controls. The summer and winter sports athletes were not acting individually but within an organized infrastructure as reported on in the first report
  2. This systematic and centralized cover up and manipulation of the doping control process evolved and was refined over the course of its use at London 2012 Summer Games, Universiade Games 2013, Moscow International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World
  3. The swapping of Russian athletes' urine samples further confirmed in the second IP Report as occurring at Sochi, did not stop at the close of the Winter Olympics. The sample swapping technique used at Sochi became a regular monthly practice of the Moscow Laboratory in dealing with elite summer and winter athletes. Further DNA and salt testing confirms the technique
  4. The key findings of the first IP report remain unchanged. The forensic testing, which is based on immutable facts, is conclusive. The results of the forensic and laboratory analysis initiated by the IP establish that the conspiracy was perpetrated between 2011 and 2015
  5. The Athlete Part of Conspiracy and Cover Up. Over 1000 Russian athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sport, can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests. Based on the information reported to International Federations, through the IP to WADA there are 600 (84%) summer athletes and 95 (16%) winter athletes
  6. Fifteen Russian athlete medal winners were identified out of the 78 on the London Summer Olympic Games Washout Lists. Ten of these athletes have now had their medals stripped
  7. Following the 2013 IAAF Moscow World Championships, four athletics athletes' samples were swapped. Additional target testing is in progress
  8. Sochi Winter Olympic Games: Sample swapping is established by two female ice hockey players' samples with male DNA
  9. Tampering with original sample established by two (sport) athletes, winners of four Sochi Olympic Gold medals, and a female Silver medal winner in (sport) with physiologically impossible salt readings
  10. Twelve medal winning athletes (including the above three) from 44 examined samples had scratches and marks on the inside of the caps of their B sample bottles, indicating tampering
  11. Six winners of 21 Paralympic medals are found to have had their urine samples tampered with at Sochi.

The IOC stated the report showed “There was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general.”

The Russian reaction was predictable: The doping findings were a fabricated Western effort to discredit Russia. In particular, the head of the Russian Investigative Committee's media department, Vladimir Markin, asserted that the whistle-blower, the former Director of the Moscow Laboratory Dr. Rodchenkov, was part of a conspiracy against Russia orchestrated by the World Anti-Doping Agency. In reality, since the old times of former Soviet Union, the goal was to create dominant sports teams by any price, reap the benefits from Olympic victories, convince the world of the superiority of the sport system and to resurrect Russia's greatness.

IOC president Thomas Bach said the McLaren report's findings would be taken up by two further commissions (”Inquiry Commission” and “Disciplinary Commission”) and then IOC would decide what steps to take.

Doping problem is hard, but clean sport is more important.


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