The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is to investigate allegations of systemic doping in Russian swimming. The agency will examine the independent report it commissioned which revealed systemic performance-enhancing drug use in Russian athletics before deciding whether to widen the inquiry.
Wada will look for corroborating evidence and whether there is new material involving swimming before determining the level of investigation.
Russian athletes are suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and a report in The Times on Wednesday has now alleged systemic doping was taking place in Russian swimming.
Craig Reedie, the Wada president, said: “There is no doubt that today’s disturbing assertions of orchestrated doping in Russian swimming should be scrutinised. Wada and its partners are under no illusions about the challenges facing sport’s integrity today. Clean athletes are justifiably concerned that their rights are being eroded through the minority that choose to dope in sport.
“As a result of information and evidence collected, Wada will make an informed decision as to what form of inquiry is needed and who will conduct it.”
Wada expressed “concern” following the allegations which “arrive at a time when trust in clean sport is already in a perilous state”.
Russia’s track and field athletes could miss August’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following the Wada independent commission report into athletics, which was published late in 2015,with a second part earlier this year, and prompted their suspension by the IAAF.
Wada has written to the International Swimming Federation (Fina), and expressed particular concerns about the alleged role of Sergei Portugalov, chief of the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) medical commission, who is facing sanctions after the independent report into athletics.
A Wada statement said: “We are concerned by the allegations that Mr Sergei Portugalov – who is currently facing a lifetime ban from working in athletics due to the commission’s findings – may be working in swimming. It should be noted that, under the world anti-doping code, such a lifetime sanction should also be recognised by all other international sport federations.”
Fina said that it had focused anti-doping efforts on Russian competitors after the Wada independent commission report into athletics, and called on The Times to share its evidence.
An International Olympic Committee spokesperson said: “At this stage anyone with any hard evidence should give it to Fina and to Wada.”
Fina insisted it had taken steps to protect its anti-doping procedures following the report into athletics, noting in a statement that: “While Fina is not aware of any concrete evidence of systemic doping in Russian swimming, we have taken a particularly robust approach to our anti-doping procedures in relation to Russia and Russian competitions, in light of Wada’s recent investigation.
“Fina issued a directive to ensure the continued integrity of the testing programme. The entirety of Fina’s unannounced out-of-competition doping control programme in Russia is now conducted by a third-party, independent of Fina and Rusada [the Russian anti-doping agency], the Swedish company IDTM.”
The 2015 Aquatics World Championships took place in Kazan, Russia and Fina pointed to the anti-doping measures in place during the competition in July and August of last year. There were 645 samples collected – 457 urine and 188 blood tests – and a further 418 blood screenings as part of the biological passport programme.
The tests were analysed in the then Wada-accredited laboratory in Moscow, under supervision of independent observers from Wada-accredited laboratories in Barcelona and London. Every sample collected is being stored in Barcelona, Fina said, and could be re-examined.
Fina added that “the great majority” of samples collected from Russian swimmers were analysed in Wada-accredited laboratories outside of Russia in 2015. All samples in 2016 will be analysed overseas, with Fina noting that it “is currently conducting target-testing for the 10 best-performing athletes in each event, with at least five tests before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro”.
Russia’s breaststroke world champion Yuliya Efimova could face a lengthy or even lifetime ban after she was suspended by the Russian Swimming Federation amid reports she had tested positive for meldonium.
The tennis star Maria Sharapova recently tested positive for meldonium – intended to treat ischaemia, or poor blood flow, but which can improve endurance – and Wada said on Tuesday that there had been 110 positive tests for the substance since it was added to its prohibited list on 1 January.