As my colleague Sergey Gladysh has reported, the International Olympic Committee (“the IOC”) has circulated a letter which has quietly skewered Professor McLaren’s report on the doping scandal in Russian sport, and in which it confirms WADA’s admission that the McLaren report does not provide sufficient evidence in individual cases against Russian athletes such as would stand up in a court of law.
The most important point made in the letter is not however the belated admission that Professor McLaren has failed to provide evidence that would stand up in court. That has always been obvious, and I have spoken of it often. See for example my discussion of Professor McLaren’s second report in which I pointed out that all Professor McLaren was doing was setting out in his report what might be called the prosecutor’s case, many parts of which were full of holes.
It is precisely because Professor McLaren’s report cannot be accepted as evidence against any individual athlete, and because the IOC has previously rejected Professor McLaren’s truly outrageous and illegal proposal that all Russian athletes be treated as guilty until they have proved their innocence and be subjected until then to a blanket ban, that the IOC is obliged – as it says in the letter – to undertake a massive reinvestigation of each and every existing sample ever provided by a Russian athlete which is still in existence to see what if any evidence against them there actually is.
The IOC can do no less, since to do otherwise would as it admits in its letter expose it to legal action.
What is however by far the most interesting thing in the IOC’s letter is that it homes in on the growing doubts that the doping conspiracy in Russian sport which Professor McLaren claims to have uncovered was really state sponsored. Here is what the IOC says about that
The complexity of the Schmid Commission’s work is considerable since for instance, in his first interim report, Professor McLaren describes a “state sponsored system” whilst in the final full report in December he described an “institutional conspiracy.” The Commission will now have to consider what this change means and which individuals, organisations or government authorities may have been involved.
(bold italics added)
That looks to me like an implicit admission that the evidence points to the doping conspiracy being the work of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of RUSADA, Russia’s formerly WADA approved dope testing lab, rather than anyone in the government.
This is of course exactly the point I made at length in my discussion of Professor McLaren’s second report
It is however in Professor McLaren’s allegation of a gigantic state sponsored conspiracy where he seems to me to be on shakiest ground.
Not only does the whole case for this conspiracy rest excessively on the testimony of Dr. Rodchenkov, but the supporting evidence to prove the existence of this conspiracy looks to me threadbare.
The emails Professor McLaren cites in support of his claim for the existence of this conspiracy in my opinion come nowhere close to doing so, whilst the statistical evidence he uses to prove the conspiracy in my opinion does no such thing. The emails seem to me to contain no ‘smoking gun’ and to be capable of various interpretations, whilst it is notoriously easy to organise random pieces of information to form a statistical pattern, and some of the statistical evidence Professor McLaren produces looks to me suspiciously like that.
To be clear, the fact that some or even many Russian athletes may have been doping does not mean they were doing it as part of a centralised state sponsored conspiracy, and it certainly does not prove that such a centralised state sponsored conspiracy actually existed.
It should be stressed that just as was the case with Professor McLaren’s first report last summer, this report is empty of contrary evidence and contains practically no testimony from the Russians, whose evidence and arguments Professor McLaren in his report disregards and barely mentions……
For what it’s worth my opinion is that if there was a conspiracy the facts point more to Dr. Rodchenkov being its originator and mastermind than to anyone else in the Russian political or sports structure.
This is in part because some of the elements of the state sponsored conspiracy Dr. Rodchenkov alleges – like the alleged role of the FSB – seem to me to belong more to the world of spy fiction than to real life. I doubt the FSB had any role in this affair, and Dr. Rodchenkov’s claim it did, and his equally unlikely claim to have been one of its agents, all but confirms that he is not telling the whole truth.
More to the point, pointing the finger at Dr. Rodchenko as the mastermind of the doping conspiracy is what the Russians have been doing all along. Indeed if Dr. Rodchenkov really was the author and mastermind of the doping conspiracy, then credit for uncovering the doping conspiracy does not belong to Professor McLaren but to the Russians authorities themselves, when they took action against Dr. Rodchenkov.
Innocent Russian athletes who were prevented from competing in the Rio Olympics and Paralympics would in that case have been the victims of Professor McLaren’s credulous belief in the alibi and cover story concocted by Dr. Rodchenkov, who would in that case be exposed as a big time criminal rather than (as Professor McLaren treats him) a courageous whistleblower.
If that is indeed what happened, I wonder what Professor McLaren, WADA, the International Paralympic Committee, the IAAF, various Western athletes, and the Western media – all of whom bought into Dr. Rodchenkov’s stories – will all say.