Inside Russia's state-sponsored drug deception

The drink was named "The Duchess".

Named after a traditional Russian cocktail, the potent mixture of Oral Turinabol, Oxandrolone and Methasterone was dissolved in Chivas whiskey for men and vermouth for women, designed specifically to give them an undetected edge over other athletes, reports news.com.au.

It was the way Russian competitors from up to 28 sports received the drugs needed to improve the medal haul after a dismal performance in Vancouver in 2010.

Employees work in Russia's national drug-testing laboratory in Moscow, Russia. Photo / AP
Employees work in Russia's national drug-testing laboratory in Moscow, Russia. Photo / AP

Only now, the state-sponsored deception has been laid bare in the devastating McLaren Report which accuses Russian officials of running a wholesale doping program between 2011 and 2015.

The explosive findings could see Russian athletes banned from the Rio Olympics less than three weeks away if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) upholds recommendations from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

On Tuesday the IOC said it would look at "legal options" over whether Russian athletes should be able to take part. That follows a statement from the WADA board who said "all athletes have a right to clean sport and a right to compete clean".

"Now is the time for sporting organisations to stand up against doping and affirm in the most robust ways possible their commitment to protecting clean athletes and zero tolerance," the WADA statement said.

"This can only be achieved through the collective sanctioning (of athletes, officials and organisations) that has been recommended."

DIRECTOR TURNED WHISTLEBLOWER

The shocking revelations are based on the confessions of former Moscow Laboratory director turned whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.

The independent report conducted by Richard McLaren is based on official documents, emails, lab tests and anonymous sources and found Russian officials were behind a widescale doping program that was covered up by replacing dirty urine tests with clean ones.

In confessions that read like material from a James Bond script, Dr Rodchenkov details how athletes were fed "The Duchess" in order to get the edge with alcohol used to enable the drugs to dissolve faster in their system.

Urine samples would be passed to Russia's deputy sports minister who would deem them 'SAVE' or 'QUARANTINE' as an instruction to the laboratory.

"Athletes that were ordered SAVE tended to be medal winners or athletes of promise," Mr McLaren writes. "Foreign athletes, or Russian athletes deemed unpromising, were ordered QUARANTINE by the MofS [Ministry of Sports] and their Laboratory bench work was completed using the regular laboratory analytical process."

Samples would be switched through a "mouse hole" in the laboratory wall by "magicians" who appeared after midnight. One of those included Russian Security Service agent Evgeny Blokhin who had security clearance to enter "under the guise of being a sewer engineer employed by engineering company Bilfinger".

Urine samples were doctored with salt and water in order to resemble the original athlete sample. Later tests revealed some contained as much as six times the salt deemed healthy for a human. Others were found to have DNA from more than one person.

"The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games (in 2014)," Mr McLaren states.

RUSSIA HITS BACK

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his meeting with Olympic volunteers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Photo / AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his meeting with Olympic volunteers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Photo / AP

Russian Prime Minister Putin hit back at the findings as a way of making "sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples."

He said the Olympic movement could find itself on the "brink of division" and questioned the credibility of Dr Rochenkvo while accusing US doping agency USADA of predetermining the outcome of the report.

"We have the impression that the USADA experts had access to what is an unpublished report at the very least, and have set its tone and even its content themselves. If this is the case, one country's national organisation is again trying to dictate its will to the entire world sports community," he said.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has denied covering up hundreds of doping cases and said he expects his staff to be cleared.

Putin said he has suspended temporarily officials named in the report, however this does not extend to Mutko

Russia's athletics team has already been banned from competing in Rio over doping, although individual athletes can compete if they are clean.

The International Olympic Committee said it will look at the legality of a collective ban versus the right to individual justice. IOC president Thomas Bach has said he supports the "toughest sanctions available".

- news.com.au

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