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Open Letter to WADA and IOC on the McLaren Report and the politicisation of doping in sports

Open letter exposes the gross bias and false methodology used in the McLaren Report.

Rick Sterling

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Dear WADA President Sir Craig Reedie and Executive Committee,

Dear IOC President Thomas Bach and Executive Committee,

I hope you will persevere and overcome the differences and disagreements between WADA and the International Olympic Committee and Russia. Many people around the world were displeased with the controversy last summer. The contentious situation and mutual accusations distracted from the Rio Olympics, reduced attendance and appeared to undermine the goals of the Olympic Charter against national discrimination.

We are at a point where things could get better or worse. Russian President Putin has said that while they do not accept the accusation of ‘state sponsored doping’, they acknowledge doping violations which need to be prevented in future through coordination with WADA. Some WADA officials have responded favourably. Yet there are countervailing efforts. The U.S. Congress recently held a hearing to further politicise the situation. Meanwhile the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations has opposed proposals for independent testing and aggressively criticised the IOC. 

As you know, the banning of Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics and Paralympics was largely based on the private statements and first report of Richard McLaren. The evidence supporting these accusations along with details of the “athlete part of the conspiracy” are said to be in McLaren Report #2 issued in December 2016.

To determine the best way forward in keeping with the goals of WADA and the IOC, it is important to look at the facts objectively. As shown below, there are significant inconsistencies, inaccuracies and errors in McLaren Report #2. The problems range from the lack of specific evidence to distortion of the findings of the “toolmarks expert”.

Clearly the situation has been politicized. We need you to resist the pressures and reject calls for blanket condemnations which hurt innocent and guilty alike. Please reject the politicization of doping in sports.

Inaccuracies and distortions in the final McLaren Report include:

(1) McLaren’s Report #2 falsely claims the first report was not challenged. On page 7 McLaren says “The fundamentals of what was described in the 1st Report have neither been the subject of criticism nor contested …” That is untrue. Here are a few examples:

* Forbes published a concise but devastating editorial titled “Russian Complaints about McLaren Report on Alleged State Sponsored Doping Have Merit”. The author, a well known sports and ethnics attorney, identified three ways in which the McLaren Report #1 violated due process. He talked of the significance of this failing:

“Due process is not an empty phrase.  Without it, there cannot be justice. Surely it should be required before a major sporting nation’s athletes are banned from the Olympics and Paralympics.”

* The British Sports Integrity Initiative published a detailed critique of McLaren Report #1 with the following conclusion:

“WADA has an important task that deserves support, but not if it becomes a politically biased crusade. As shown above, the McLaren Report has major deficiencies. The targeting of Russia and indiscriminate punishment of their athletes is a betrayal of the Olympic spirit.

* The Italian Dirito Penale Contemporaneo published a Critical Analysis of the Report of Richard McLaren. The 13 page analysis concludes that the McLaren Report #1 possesses “inconsistencies and exaggerations” and is “biased and unsubstantiated”.

(2) McLaren is inconsistent in his accusations against Russian athletes and knows the evidence may be weak. On page 2 he says “Over 1000 Russian athletes …. can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.” On page 5 there is less certainty as he says “over 1000 Russian athletes … appear to have been involved ….” On page 20 the previous certainty is reduced even more as he says “246 athletes can be identified as potentially knowingly participating in manipulation…”  (underlining added). On page 18 McLaren acknowledges the evidence may be weak as he says “the IP has not assessed the sufficiency of the evidence to prove an ADRV by any individual athlete.” (For readers unfamiliar with the acronyms, McLaren is the “Independent Person” or “IP” and “ADRV” is anti-doping rule violation).

(3) Sports Federations are now confirming that McLaren’s evidence is weak. The lack of evidence is confirmed in the recent findings by different athletic federations. For example the International Biathlon Union recently evaluated McLaren’s information and cleared 22 of 29 Russians who had been implicated. Investigation of the other 7 continues. Even if all 7 are ultimately found guilty that means that 76% were not and suggests that McLaren’s accusation of 1000 complicit Russian athletes was a huge exaggeration.

(4) McLaren accuses Russian officials and institutions without providing evidence. On page 20 he states “The cover up and manipulation of doping control processes involved officials in the Ministry of Sport (“MofS”), CSP , and Federal Security Service (“FSB”) as well as other sport officials and coaches. Also included were both the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (“RUSADA”) and the Moscow Laboratory.” It is widely known that Rodchenkov and the Moscow Laboratory were at the center of doping violations. What is new and requires evidence are the accusations that officials from the Ministry of Sports, Security Services and RUSADA were part of a conspiracy.

When this author contacted Richard McLaren asking where the evidence is, he replied“The EDP is divided into categories so you can locate the documents you are looking for.” The “Evidence Disclosure Package” contains 1,031 evidence documents. A chart assigns each document among twelve general categories. McLaren’s major accusations do not reference a specific document. In effect, the Independent Person tells readers to find it for themselves. This is a very curious way to persuade or convince anyone. It raises the question whether the evidence is weak or non-existent. McLaren admits that there is “no direct evidence of ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) involvement in the conspiracy.”

By contrast, when McLaren explained why he declined the request of the Vice Chairman of the IOC Ethics Commission, he refers to a specific letter which documents the communication (EDP1164). When McLaren describes the WADA directive telling Moscow Laboratory to save samples, he documents the communication (EDP1160). If McLaren has evidence of the “institutional conspiracy”, why does he not identify or present the evidence?

(5) McLaren smears all Russian athletes, innocent and guilty alike. On pages 46-47 he says “doping manipulation and cover up of doping control processes was institutionalized … It is unknown whether athletes knowingly or unknowingly participated in the processes involved. However they may be part of the conspiracy… Together, all of these parties were implicated parts amounting to a conspiracy….” With this logic, McLaren says all Russian athletes are guilty – whether or not they knew, whether or not they participated. 

(6) McLaren claims that Rodchenkov followed the directions and instructions of high officials in the Ministry of Sports but provides no evidence. For example, on page 82 McLaren says “On Deputy Minister Nagornykh’s instructions, the first phase in developing the sample swapping technique was launched.” On page 83 he says “At the direction of the MofS, these athletes would collect clean urine in baby bottles, Coke bottles or similar containers and supply it to the CSP.” On page 84 he says, “By direction of Minister Mutko and Deputy Minister Nagornykh all pre-competition washout samples for testing were to be collected only ‘under the table’ in unofficial containers.” If this is true, why does McLaren not provide the evidence in the form of emails or other communication?

(7) McLaren suggests without evidence that the Ministry of Sports was responsible for distributing performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”). On page 64 he says “Centralizing and controlling distribution of PEDs to athletes became an increasingly important element of the doping control system and manipulation.” This is contradicted by the fact that Rodchenkov was previously arrested for possession and distribution of PEDs and his sister was convicted for this activity. It is contradicted by the fact the Rodchenkov and coach Melnikov received payments for the drugs and falsified tests. Many piece of evidence confirm the guilt of McLaren’s principal witness, Dr. Rodchenkov, but none give proof of collusion or direction by the Minister of Sports or another high official.  In a footnote on page 68 McLaren says “it appears that athletes had to pay Coach Melnikov and Rodchenkov for positive samples to be clean.” This suggests a profit making or extortion scheme rather than state organized.

(8) McLaren makes sensational accusations based on erroneous or misleading references. For example on page 74 he refers to the ‘hijacking of the London 2012 Games’. To substantiate this extraordinary claim,  McLaren refers to the 2016 IOC media release “IOC sanctions eight athletes for failing anti-doping test at London 2012” . It is implied these are some of the Russian athletes who “hijacked” the London Games.  This is misleading because only two of the eight disqualified athletes were Russian.

(9) McLaren bases his “forensic analysis” on the findings of a “world renowned expert in firearms and toolmarks examinations” but mysteriously keeps his identity secret and does not cross-check or validate his investigation results. Richard McLaren says his conclusions are based on “immutable facts” and “forensic analysis”. The lofty words largely boil down to this:

– A toolmarks expert determined there was a way to open the supposedly tamper-proof urine sample bottles to allow exchange of dirty urine with clean urine. However the clandestine bottle cap opening would leave some slight marks. The marks were found to be of two types. 

– Based on advice from Rodchenkov, McLaren did an investigation of select Russian sample bottles from the Sochi Games and afterwards and found that the samples were contaminated and either had mismatched DNA or impossible salt content.

– The toolmarks expert studied a small number of sample bottles from during and after the Sochi Games, again based on Rodchenkov’s suggestions, and determined that most of them had the “marks” suggesting they had been clandestinely opened.

Given the importance of the investigation, and the fact it was presumed to be impartial and objective, it is reasonable to ask some questions: Why is the expert anonymous? How was his evaluation and testing cross-checked and validated?  Why was the Swiss manufacturer of the sample bottles (Berlinger) not involved in the examination and testing? That should have been done for two reasons:

  1. because Berlinger has technical staff who are the most knowledgeable about these urine sample bottles
  2. to assist in correcting any flaw in the design, if it actually exists, to prevent future abuse.

In addition, it is important to note the highly selective nature of this examination. The Sochi Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ samples that were investigated were selected by the person who was said to be at the heart of the corruption.

(10) McLaren distorts the findings of the “toolmarks expert”. On page 103 McLaren says “the forensic testing, which is based on immutable facts, is conclusive… The results of the forensic and laboratory analysis initiated by the IP establish the conspiracy that was perpetrated at the Sochi Games.” However, the toolmarks expert makes no such claims.  The findings in the “Forensic Report” (EDP0902) are much more qualified: 

  1. McLaren asserts that “marks” on the inside of the urine sample bottle confirm tampering. However the expert does not say that. Regarding “Type 1 marks”, the expert concluded that “these marks were reproduced and found to be present after screwing the lid on forcefully”. This means that if a user over-tightened the bottle cap trying to insure no urine leakage, it would cause similar marks.
  2. Regarding “Type 2 marks”, the expert found that “If there was manual manipulation of the metal ring and spring steel washer before the lids were screwed on for whatever reason, marks similar to some of the Type 2 marks were reproduced. This could for example result from fingers or cloth being used to wipe the inside of the lid to clean it.”
  3. On page 22 of the “Forensic Report”, the expert concludes with the following warning: “These marks on their  own should not be considered to be conclusive evidence of opening the bottles or attempts to open the bottles ….”. (underlining added).  This is opposite to what McLaren claimed.

Finally, I note the following: If the goal was to discover whether or not there was widespread tampering with sample bottles from one country, then it could be done by examining random sample bottles from many different countries to see if there are telltale marks from only one country. That would also be a strong indicator that the marks were from tampering and not from the incidental causes which the toolmarks expert warned of. This was evidently not done. 

Conclusions

It’s clear that there were doping violations by some Russian athletes with collusion and assistance by the Moscow Laboratory Director Rodchenkov and some others. Despite McLaren’s accusations of “state sponsored doping” and an “institutional conspiracy”, he has presented little or no evidence showing this. 

If there is clear evidence in the Evidence Disclosure Package, why is it not identified?  What does it say about the integrity and fairness of someone in authority who makes sensational accusations which grab the headlines while knowing the evidence is weak and many of the accused may be innocent? What kind of ethics and “fair play” does this demonstrate? 

It seems clear there needs to be an independent and NOT nationally-based testing authority which can implement common standards and prevent doping use, evasion and false accusations.

In closing, I appeal to the leaders of WADA and IOC to please find a way to reduce the politicization of doping in sports and resist the demands of those saying they wish to “protect clean athletes” by taking away the rights of other clean athletes based on national discrimination. 

Best regards,

Rick Sterling

Investigative Journalist

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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