They swapped samples, tampered with them and some even “disappeared.” The findings out of an independent investigation that confirmed Russia cheated at the Olympics has left Canadian leaders in the anti-doping field “repulsed,” “astonished,” and “devastated.”
The investigation, led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren of Western University, concluded that Russia carried out widespread, state-sponsored doping that led to 312 falsified results spanning from 2011 to 2015.
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In the report’s Monday unveiling, McLaren said that labs in Moscow and Sochi protected Russian athletes.
“No one would ever assume that a country hosting an Olympic Games would work so actively to sabotage the doping controls that surround the event…I’m repulsed and astonished. It’s like something out of a spy novel in some respects,” Dr. Andrew Pipe told Global News.
READ MORE: How Russia pulled off state-sponsored cheating at the Olympics
He’s a physician at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute who has spent decades in sports medicine. Since the 1980s, he’s taken part in 11 Olympics, helped to construct world anti-doping measures and led the formation of Canada’s own anti-doping agency.
Paul Melia, president of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, said he was “disheartened” by the findings.
WATCH: An independent investigation led by a Canadian law professor has confirmed widespread, state-sponsored doping in Russian sports.
He said he thinks of the response from “clean” athletes who jump through so many hoops to play their sport on a global stage.
“Everything we do is to try to ensure that not just Canadian athletes, but athletes around the world, have a level playing field. We demand so much of them to apply to this world anti-doping code – we take their blood, urine, check on their whereabouts, look at their medical records,” Melia told Global News.
“All of that is very intrusive, and they do it willingly because that’s the price they pay for a clean sport. So for them to do that and to hear a country was undermining everything they were doing and they were competing against these athletes…that must be discouraging for them,” Melia said.
Melia said world officials made huge strides in anti-doping measures. Athlete biological passports – or ABPs, for example – were implemented. They act as identity cards containing each athlete’s blood profile in its uninterrupted state. Athletes have to be tested at random and often to create a baseline of what their typical blood makeup looks like. Then, officials can easily detect an aberration.
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But the report found that Russian athletes circumvented most of this – in the lab, the “disappearing positive methodology” meant that samples of positive test results were turned into negative ones.
“Laboratory staff was under strict instructions to report all positives to the ministry of sport, whatever the circumstances,” McLaren said.
In summary, samples were swapped out to cover up doping. Russia’s own secret service, called the FSB, was even tasked with figuring out how to swap dirty urine with clean urine, the report said.
“They [FSB] developed a method for surreptitiously removing the caps of the bottles for use at Sochi,” McLaren said. “As a result there were no positive samples at the Sochi Games for Russian athletes.”
READ MORE: Report confirms Russian sample-swapping, widespread doping during Olympics
Pipe called the swapping system “deceptively simple” – a quick “switcheroo” that took place in the middle of the night.
It’s the scale that’s troubling, too. While single athletes or a unit led by coach may be found guilty of doping, this is a “whole new scale.”
“No one has been brazen enough to do this in an Olympic Games…we put great faith in the lab scientists and lab apparatuses around the world. It’s appalling to learn what has taken place in this setting and the architecture behind it all,” Pipe said.
Melia called the findings “disillusioning.”
WATCH: According to a WADA report, the drug testing lab at the Sochi Olympics “operated a unique sample swapping methodology” that allowed “dirty” Russian athletes to compete at the 2014 Winter Games.
“We were developing new test techniques and it felt like we were moving forward and making progress to stop doping in sport. To think this kind of doping was going on and it was run by the government of Russia and their lab with no regard for the code or integrity of the sport,” Melia said.
READ MORE: World Anti-Doping Agency wants IOC to ban all Russian teams from Rio Olympics
The bottom line? He suggests that while world anti-doping codes have been put in place, it doesn’t mean countries are abiding by the rules.
“We’ve naively believed they’ve adopted the code and they say they’ve been following the code, but they’ve been doing the opposite,” Melia said.
Following Monday’s report, the WADA’s executive board wants the IOC to ban all Russian teams from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
WADA also wants Russian government officials to be denied access to international competitions, including the upcoming Olympics.
With files from Adam Frisk and the Associated Press