Earlier this year in February, just a few days short of the expiration of a 10-year preclusive term, a track-and-field athlete, who had come to us seeking legal assistance, faced charges for presumptive use of erythropoietin. Following the consideration of the Statement of Defense prepared by Clever Consult lawyers, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, with all charges dropped. Subject to the provisions of Article 17.3 of the All-Russian Anti-Doping Rules, we keep all details relating to the athlete identity undisclosed.
The charges against our client rested on the analytical findings which had been obtained upon testing doping samples 2013 and which had been subsequently stored in the database of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory (FGUP Anti-Doping Center), otherwise known as LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System). The charges were presented after the entire gigantic LIMS database was provided to WADA experts early in 2019, which in point of fact constituted one of the conditions to reinstate RUSADA and its compliance status. The database had already been securely “sealed” by the Russian Investigative Committee to ensure it remained unchanged as part of measures taken within the context of the criminal case initiated as far back as in 2016 against Grigory Rodchenkov. Then a scrupulous study ensued where WADA experts studied it, comparing it against the copy of the same database previously made available to WADA back to 2015, and they eventually concluded that the laboratory staff had manipulated the results of some tests, for example, by changing positive sample testing results to negative, failing to report positive tests, etc. It is common practice that such cases predominantly entail negative consequences (imposition of sanctions) for athletes, regardless of which anti-doping organization gets WADA authorization to conduct results management – be it the international federation for a particular sport or RUSADA. While it is historically true that tribunals, upon consideration of such cases, have occasionally exonerated athletes, but this only happened in cases where the anti-doping organization supported a strictly accusatory approach and insisted on the imposition of severe sanctions.
In our client’s case, upon careful study of both the arguments of our lawyers and the documentation received from WADA, RUSADA felt compelled to agree with the athlete’s position and to conclude that no evidence of an anti-doping rule violation proved to be worthy of consideration. Therefore the case was dismissed, the charges and allegations were dropped, at which point our client without any further disturbance pursued their sports activities.
In present day circumstances such an outcome of a case - even without so much as a hearing before the Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee (!) - is virtually unprecedented for RUSADA. We as well as the athlete are grateful to RUSADA for the fair and balanced approach which helped both parties avoid lengthy and costly procedures associated with preparation for and participation in hearings.