An independent commission that spent 11 months investigating charges of corruption, doping, and cover-ups in Track and Field dropped a bombshell Monday, releasing a blistering 323-page report that could have major implications for next summer's Olympics.
The investigation uncovered a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" within Russia's athletics federation, including evidence that the government interfered with drug testing procedures. The report recommended lifetime bans for several Russian coaches and athletes, including two 800-meter runners who medaled at the 2012 London Games.
But despite the news, Track and Field's true nightmare scenario might still be a month or two away. According to the report, the commission withheld most of its findings against IAAF, the sport's international governing body, pending an ongoing criminal investigation led by French authorities.
The details of the IAAF investigation aren't expected to be released until later this year, but here's a breakdown of what we know now, and what questions remain:
Russian track and field is dirty. Really dirty.
The commission left basically zero doubt that Russian coaches, athletes, doctors, and officials have been involved in a widespread cheating and cover-up operation. Among the findings: Lab officials in Moscow intentionally destroyed more than 1,400 doping samples that they'd been ordered to preserve; Russian anti-doping officials regularly accepted bribes from athletes and allowed them to miss drug tests without penalty; and the country's track and field federation delayed investigations into suspicious drug tests so that Russian athletes would be able to compete at London in 2012.
The investigation even turned up evidence that undercover officers from the FSB (successor to the Soviet Union's KGB) have appeared at testing labs in Moscow and Sochi. According to the report, the officers' presence "imposed an atmosphere of intimidation on laboratory process and staff."
Russian Track and Field athletes could be banned from the Rio Games.
A final decision is probably a few months away, but the IAAF said Monday it would consider hitting the Russian federation with sanctions, including a possible ban from international competitions. If imposed, that ban could prevent all Russian track and field athletes — clean or dirty — from competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. At the London Olympics, Russian athletes combined to win 18 medals in track and field.
Will American Alysia Montaño receive an overdue Olympic medal?
The commission's report recommended lifetime bans for Russian middle-distance runners Mariya Savinova-Farnosova and Ekaterina Poistogova, who both won 800-meter medals at the 2012 Games. If the International Olympics Committee now decides to revoke those medals, 5th-place finisher Alysia Montaño (who famously competed at the 2014 U.S. Championships while eight months pregnant) would be promoted to the bronze-medal position. It's unclear if that will happen, since neither Russian athlete officially tested positive for banned substances in London (they were instead caught admitting to doping during secretly recorded conversations that surfaced last year), but the IOC statute of limitations for revoking medals and changing positions is eight years.
Montaño says she hopes the IOC will take swift action following this morning's report. "I absolutely feel robbed," she says. "I think the right thing to do is to take those medals away and hand them to the rightful winners."
Montaño also offered a proposal for cleaning up a sport that has been riddled with doping scandals. "I think we need to look at having outside biochemists do the testing," she says. "If there's so much close contact between guilty agencies and national federations, we're going to keep seeing this over and over again."
There's probably even worse news coming.
The commission found evidence of "corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels" of international track and field, but those details won't be released until a criminal investigation coordinated by INTERPOL is closer to completion. The fallout from the new information could be severe. Last week, French authorities leading the INTERPOL probe announced that former IAAF president Lamine Diack is under investigation on corruption and money-laundering charges. Diack is suspected of accepting a Russian bribe of more than $200,000 to cover up positive drug tests.
Following a request for comment this morning, USA Track and Field released a prepared statement from CEO Max Siegel: "The information contained in the WADA report released today is deeply troubling for everyone in track & field," Siegel writes. "USATF supports all efforts to maintain the integrity of the sport, escalate the fight against doping and keep the playing field level for all athletes. We are pleased by the IAAF's responsiveness under President Sebastian Coe as the IAAF and its Council take on this critical matter."
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