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Exclusive: Russia faces exclusion from Tokyo Olympics over suspected data tampering at drug-testing lab

Robert Dineen
Russia faces being excluded from the Tokyo Olympics - AP FILES

Russia faces being excluded from next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games because data from its Moscow anti-doping laboratory is suspected to have been tampered with before being submitted to the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

Wada believes the information has been manipulated over the past 18 months in an attempt to cover up historic and systemic drug-taking by Russian athletes, sources have told The Telegraph.

The global anti-doping agency is expected to report the findings at a meeting of its executive committee meeting in Tokyo on Monday, where Russia’s anti-doping agency’s potential re-suspension by Wada is due to be discussed. The International Association of Athletics Federations will then consider the Russian Athletics Federation’s status when it meets ahead of the World Athletics Championships, which start in Doha on Friday. It now looks increasingly unlikely that Russia will be reinstated at the World Championships, where at least 29 Russian athletes have been entered as neutrals.

The Telegraph understands that more evidence of wrongdoing is expected to emerge over the next two months. If it is confirmed that the data submitted was manipulated, it could lead to Russia's athletes being excluded from the 2020 Olympics, sources said.

The reports of data potentially being manipulated were first reported by the Associated Press news agency on Saturday. The Telegraph understands that the data broadly relates to samples taken in the period covered by the McLaren Report, which was published in 2016 and revealed systemic, alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia.

The reported manipulation may not have been undertaken with state-level approval, it seems, but there is evidence of it being widespread and ongoing. Individuals involved are understood to be tampering with the data before submitting it in an attempt to make the institutionalised drug-taking appear not as bad as it really was.

The data was stored on a Laboratory Information Management System. “This tampering appears to be very, very recent,” a Wada source told The Telegraph. In December, Wada’s compliance review committee had recommended that Russia’s anti-doping agency be reinstated on the condition that the Russian authorities submitted authentic data from its Moscow laboratory. 

The Russian Athletics Federation is also under investigation by the Athletics Integrity Unit, which will submit its findings before the IAAF council’s scheduled meeting in November.