Last week we published a letter from the IOC Disciplinary Commission relating to the investigations regarding Russian athletes. I would now like to share with you further communication from the chair of the commission, Denis Oswald, who has responded directly to provide more detail around the methodology and hearings – Angela Ruggiero.
October 23 2017
Thank you for sending me the feedback you received from the athletes’ community. Here are my responses on the points raised:
On the methodology:
The McLaren Report was focused on showing whether a system of manipulation was in place in Russia. This wider system and the roles of individuals, sports organisations and the Russian government are the focus of the Schmid Commission.
On many occasions, Prof McLaren has stated that his report was not designed to provide evidence to support an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) for individual athletes.
We are working closely with Prof McLaren, but he himself admits that his report alone and what he can provide additionally is not sufficient to build up individual cases of anti-doping rule violations, which would be legally founded and withstand review by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The cases at stake are not customary anti-doping cases. They are not based on adverse analytical findings from a lab. This is why other evidence had to be established which can support findings of antidoping rules violations (including notably tampering), in each individual case.
To that end, a new process had to be developed and validated to examine and qualify scratches and marks found on the bottles. The Lausanne university developed this process, working with the manufacturers of the bottles and the experts used in the McLaren report. Since this was a new process, it has taken time to establish it and then to implement it.
Another process was developed regarding abnormal salt levels. Here, the first aspect was to define the range of normal salt level. This was done by re-analysing all Vancouver samples, not a small process in itself.
Additionally, in several cases, the B-Samples have to be analysed (for salt and/or DNA) This cannot occur before the forensic examination of the scratches and marks has been completed, as the opening of the sample destroys the cap on which the marks and scratches can be observed.
Throughout this period, we have done everything we can to accelerate the process while preserving legal integrity. For example, more staff have been hired and trained by the university to maximise the numbers of bottles analysed on a daily basis.
In spite of all our efforts, it took time to obtain elements in respect of evidence of tampering.
We received the results of the forensic studies only a few days ago and more results are still expected in the coming days and weeks.
Proceeding too fast and without a solid legal basis would have led to decisions without sufficient evidence and with a very high risk of being overturned by the CAS.
A decision in regard of an individual athlete cannot be rendered on the basis of general assertions such as «it is clear that bottles have been tampered with ». You will appreciate that more specific evidence is needed. This is in the interest of athletes and simply represents the application of minimum standard of due process. I do hope that this standard is recognised as expressing common values, which continue to be seen as necessary and legitimate beyond the frustration and impatience their observance may sometimes entail.
This notwithstanding, as mentioned in my letter of 16th October, we feel that we have now begun to have in hand the evidence material, which will make it possible to properly examine the existence of antidoping rule violations and, when this is the case, to draw the consequences provided by the rules in regard of the corresponding athletes.
Thus, several athletes have already been summoned to appear before our Commission to be heard and decisions will be issued shortly thereafter.
The hearings are “transparent” in the sense that the athlete suspected of having committed an ADRV, the IOC, the relevant IF and the relevant NOC are all invited to the hearing.
Proceedings including hearings conducted in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), which the IOC Rules implement, are however not public and cannot be opened to any third party other than the ones mentioned in the rules.
I note that the confidentiality requirements provided by the WADC correspond to customary practice in disciplinary matters in most legal systems at international level.
In any event, making the hearings public or even publishing the names of athletes suspected of having committed an ADRV at this stage of the proceedings is simply not a possibility under the applicable rules of the WADC.
However and in accordance with the same WADC provisions, the decisions will be made public, at least when there will be findings of ADRV.
IOC Disciplinary Commission Chair