The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Russian doping officers accused of warning athletes

Associated Press Friday, 15 March 2019, 18:43 Last update: about 2 months ago

Russian anti-doping inspectors have again been accused of giving athletes advanced warning of what are meant to be surprise drug tests.

Russian anti-doping agency deputy CEO Margarita Pakhnotskaya told The Associated Press on Friday there were "tens" of cases in the sport of powerlifting. The agency is now investigating whether the inspectors worked in other sports and tipped off athletes in those events too.

Pakhnotskaya was speaking hours after the International Paralympic Committee lifted its doping suspension of Russia , subject to extra drug-testing in future. There's no evidence Russian Paralympians received any tipoffs.

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Pakhnotskaya said powerlifters showed her agency, known as RUSADA, tipoffs from inspectors working for a private company and demands for payment.

"They know they're breaking the rules," she said. One giveaway that the tests weren't above-board, Pakhnotskaya said, were forms claiming male inspectors had witnessed female athletes give urine samples — a clear breach of the rules.

The inspectors supposedly include former RUSADA staff now working for a private company contracted by the Russian Powerlifting Federation.

RUSADA is investigating whether the federation itself ordered unofficial pre-competition tests, which would breach anti-doping rules.

Tipoffs can allow athletes to wash banned substances out of their systems in time to appear clean, while under-the-table testing can be used to monitor doped athletes who it is hoped will appear clean in time to compete.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigators have said both practices formed part of a wider practice of deception and cover-ups in Russian sport before WADA suspended RUSADA in 2015. Since then, RUSADA has come under new management and replaced its inspectors.

WADA lifted RUSADA's suspension last year on the condition that Russian authorities turn over computer data and drug-test samples which could reveal more past doping offenses.

The use of private companies for testing is a gray area in Russian law, Pakhnotskaya said. She wants the Sports Ministry to give RUSADA the authority to regulate them.

Otherwise "people will think nothing's changed" in Russian sport, she said, adding "we're grateful to the athletes who informed us" of the alleged tipoffs.

The powerlifting federation and the company which allegedly employed rogue inspectors did not immediately comment.

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