Richard McLaren: 'I Am Not Trying to Prove Russia Wrong'

The man whose report resulted in Russia's Paralympic team being banned from the 2016 games in Rio and in 2018 in South Korea has spoken to Sputnik about the seemingly never ending doping scandal.
Richard McLaren takes questions after delivering his second and final part of a report for WADA, London, December 9, 2016 © Reuters, Neil Hall
Last year's report by independent WADA expert Richard McLaren has triggered a wave of allegations against Russian athletes and Russia's doping control system.

In July and December 2016, he presented a two-part report that accused Russian athletes of doping and alleged the existence of an institutionalized systematic method of manipulating doping results. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims.
McLaren's report contributed to the ban of part of Russia's team from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As a result of the report, the entire Russian Paralympian team was banned from the games in Rio and from the qualifying events for the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in South Korea. The decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December.
On Wednesday, the Russian Investigative Committee denied the conclusions of McLaren's report, including the alleged existence in Russia of an institutionalized doping program.

An official representative of the committee said that it had carried out an investigation into the allegations, during which over 700 athletes, coaches and medical workers were questioned, and none of them have confirmed the existence of an institutionalized doping program.
In an exclusive interview, Sputnik discussed the issue with Professor Richard McLaren of the Law Faculty of Western University London Canada; Counsel to McKenzie Lake law firm and CEO of McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc. and the Independent Person in the WADA investigation.

Richard McLaren
© AFP, Maurizio Gambarini / dpa
On the Purpose of the Report
Sputnik: Today the Russian State Investigative Committee stated that it found no evidence of the existence of a state-run doping program, that's after some 700 interviews with athletes, coaches etc. But in your report you say that such a program exists. Do you have any concrete evidence of this apart from one man's testimony?

Richard McLaren: Yes, I do. There are documents that came from computer data bases that indicate that there was some sort of system going on and by the way I didn't describe it as a state run but an institutionalized systematic method of manipulating doping results. And the evidence that Dr. Rodchenkov provided by way of interviews I was able to cross confirm with other confidential witnesses and I was also able to confirm many of the things that he told me by the analysis of the samples that we had that came from the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Sputnik: In September the New York Times leaked an excerpt of WADA's internal documents, which say the World Anti-Doping Agency earlier agreed to clear 95 athletes accused of violating doping regulations due to a lack of sufficient evidence. So WADA itself can't find Russian sportsmen guilty of any wrongdoings, after that much time and amid two ongoing probes into the matter, why then are you so persistent in trying to prove Russia wrong?

Richard McLaren: Well I am not trying to prove Russia wrong. What I was asked to do was look into whether or not there was some kind of institutional system. I did that and created the reports and put the reports in the public domain along with the evidence that I had. I was asked not to look for anybody committing any doping rule violations but if I came across the names of people in the course of my work, I was to identify them. I also did that although in the documents on the website those names are redacted to protect them from any recrimination or any other inquiry.
"I was asked not to look for anybody committing any doping rule violations but if I came across the names of people in the course of my work, I was to identify them."
And once the investigation was complete, WADA has been reviewing the information we've provided, they have apparently, I'm independent of WADA and I wasn't involved in this review, they looked at some information that has been provided they passed on to international federations. And they concluded that first, the federation itself that would be the Russian Federation and their equivalent international sports body looked at the information and decided that there wasn't enough to do having any doping rule violation. No, I am not trying to prove anything. I was asked to identify people who I could see in the work that I did had some kind of involvement, precisely what I couldn't always say but I never thought that many of those people would have necessarily been committing any doping rule violations.

Anti-doping laboratory © Sputnik, Valeriy Melnikov
On Lifetime Ban for Russian Skiers
Sputnik: Two Russian skiers have been handed a life time ban, despite multiple doping-negative tests. In terms of the law aren't the athletes innocent until proven guilty? How legal is this decision by the IOC? What about the moral aspect of this situation?

Richard McLaren: Well the IOC set up a disciplinary commission headed by a member of the IOC Denny Oswald and they have been conducting hearings apparently. They have I presume been reviewing evidence and listening to athletes' submissions and perhaps the athletes themselves. I am not privy to what they are doing and I have no idea what went on in terms of the hearings other than what's in the press. And I would presume they were given a proper hearing that evidence was presented and in the conclusions which is all that the IOC has announced to date was that the two cross country athletes that have been identified, ought to have their results taken away from Sochi and that they ought to be precluded from going to the Olympic Games in the future. But that's part of the IOC process. It arises because of the work I did as the independent person but it's not directly related to my work and I had really no involvement in the process.
Sputnik: Would this suggest then there was new evidence produced accusing them?

Richard McLaren:You'd have to ask Denny Oswald that question. I do know that they engaged an expert to look for the kinds of marks and scratches on the bottles that we found on the bottles that we examined. We did not examine all of the Sochi bottles, only a select number. So that would be not necessarily new evidence but different evidence generated by them, not by me.

Sputnik: Should the two IOC probes prove these sportsmen are actually clean on appeal - are you for example prepared to make an apology? Hypothetically speaking

Richard McLaren: There is no need for me to make an apology. My mandate was to identify people who in the work that I did and the information that I had may have been involved somehow in this system. I have done that and I didn't accuse any of the people that were named of having committed any doping rule violations. But I stand by the fact that I can identify them as being in the process and if you want you can look at the documents that establish those, although the redacted names would make it difficult for you to actually see which documents to look at, but nevertheless they are all on the public website.
On WADA Informant Rodchenkov
Sputnik: The curious thing for me is that so much of this depends upon the testimony of one individual, in this case Grigory Rodchenkov. He is quite a colorful character in Russia and quite been discredited to some extent what do you make of his evidence?

Richard McLaren: Well I am aware of his past and some of the issues that have arisen in the course of his career in Russia before he left. So I was careful in listening to what he told me only except what I could otherwise corroborate either by forensic information or by other witnesses that I interviewed. So I find him in the context of this investigation to have been truthful. And that's really all I really needed to do. And would further point out that, were he not been truthful to me then there is a high probability that he would not have been able to retain his residence in the United States and he would be deported, so that's a powerful incentive on him to have told me the truth. And what he did tell me I was able to verify it to the extent that I could verify it I published it in the report.

Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics © Sputnik, Alexander Vilf
On IOC Investigations
Sputnik: Two investigations have been established by the IOC following you report, none of them has yet concluded. Surely if the scheme was as vast as your report claims they would have found something by now? International Biathlon Union (IBU) vice-president for sport Max Cobb has claimed it could have been over 6 months ago - is he right?

Richard McLaren: Well you would have to out that question to the IOC disciplinary commission. They need to explain what's been going on and why they are only reporting now. I would point out that I was asked to report in 57 days back when I was first appointed in May of 2016. I did that on the 18th of July, except that I asked for extension with respect to identifying people who may have been involved in the system and that report didn't occur until December. But the total work that I did took from May to December of 2016 which is now much shorter than the period which leads to the disciplinary commission to the IOC have been working aside from these two cases which we just spoke about they haven't reported on anything yet.

Sputnik: What would be the reasons for delays in their reporting?

Richard McLaren: Well again I think you need to ask them. I don't know I am not privy to what they are doing or why they may have encountered delays. Certainly to the extent that they were looking for additional evidence or checking or re doing evidence that I have done, for example, the forensic work on the Sochi bottles that would certainly take time and that would explain some of it, beyond that I don't know.

The Russian national flag carried out at the closing ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics © Sputnik, Maksim Bogodvid
On Criticism of the Report
Sputnik: Russian officials have on numerous occasions now claimed that your report contains certain contentious positions and provisions. What is your response to their criticisms?

Richard McLaren: What criticisms are you actually speaking about?

Sputnik: Well they seem to believe that some of the positions you have taken are quite contentious

Richard McLaren: Well they are certainly entitled to their belief and their view of what's said. I don't view them as being particularly contentious, I was asked to investigate to determine whether what was published in the New York Times and said on the 60 minutes television show had any validity to it. I did that and found that it did have some validity and that is described in the report.

Sputnik: It's been suggested you changed your characterization of the alleged doping scheme from a state-run one to an 'institutional systematic evasion of doping control procedures'. Considering the ongoing investigations and Moscow's cooperation, are we to see further concessions on your part?

Richard McLaren: Well that wasn't a concession. What happened there is in between the first report and second report I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Smirnoff who was appointed as the head of a public anti-doping commission and we had a lengthy meeting and an interview.
"I was quite open to him in saying well I have no evidence of any of that, my evidence stops at the deputy minister and the minister of sports and that's as far as it goes."
We both got along with each other very well and he pointed out to me that Russians would view the situation if it was a state sponsored system it would involve the inner circle and president of the country. I was quite open to him in saying well I have no evidence of any of that, my evidence stops at the deputy minister and the minister of sports and that's as far as it goes. And so because I wanted to show to Mr. Smirnoff that I was listening to what he had to say I was prepared to change the description and that's why I changed it. It wasn't a concession on my part I wanted to show clearly that I had listened to what he had to tell me.
Of course we had some disagreements about that, it would be expected but where I could accept what he had to say I did. That's why I made the change and the facts that back up the statement whichever label you put on it are still the same from the first report and the second report. So there is no concession there it's listening to what was told to me and feedback by Mr. Smirnoff and taking account of it in the second report.
Richard McLaren delivers his second and final part of a report for WADA, London, December 9, 2016 © Reuters, Neil Hall
On Transparency of WADA's Probe
Sputnik: Moscow's called for more transparency when it comes to WADA's probe – what would your response to this suggestion?

Richard McLaren: Well transparency is the word that is frequently used and it has many different multiple meanings to it and it means different things to different people. But if it's meant that WADA should be more transparent in conducting an investigation you simply cannot do that. Investigations need to be conducted without public statements and without any kind of comment which is certainly, exactly what I did. I made no comments during the period that I was conducting the investigation other than when I had due to press reports connected to the release of the two reports.
"Investigations need to be conducted without public statements and without any kind of comment which is certainly, exactly what I did."
Now after the reports are out, and particularly when you put all the information that you have, with some restrictions, because certain of it couldn't be there due to the reasons of confidentiality, and other reasons. Is that transparency? I would say that is transparency after the investigation is over. Here is what I looked at and you can look at it and if you come to different conclusions we can discuss why you have come to these different conclusions. So I think in the end of it, in terms of the work I did on behalf of WADA it was transparent but it couldn't possibly have been during the course of the investigation open for transparent review by anybody. That's not the way investigations are conducted.

Picture of the logo of WADA at the headquarter of the organisation in Montreal © AFP, Marc Braibant
On Rodchenkov's Extradition to Russia
Sputnik: Moscow is looking to demand extradition of your star-witness from the United States, Mr. Rodchenkov. Many discrepancies on his behalf have been revealed - do you feel comfortable about basing your work on the words of someone who might have an agenda of their own ?

Richard McLaren: Well I want to emphasize again that while I interviewed him on several occasions and I did determine that he was credible in what he was saying in the context of the investigation, I didn't look at anything beyond that with respect to him, but I did have evidence from other people and I had documentary evidence that didn't come from him that verified what he was saying so in terms of my report I consider him to be a credible witness but I don't consider him to be as you describe it the star witness, there were many other parts of the investigation and information from many other sources that supported what I had to say in the report.

Sputnik: Do you believe he will be extradited in the end?

Richard McLaren: Well that's an issue between the Russian Federation and the US government. As a matter of law I don't believe there is an extradition treaty between the two countries so that would make it difficult to occur but that's not up to me to decide.
On Russia and 2018 Winter Olympics
Sputnik: And lastly, do you believe then that Russia will actually participate in the next winter Olympics with full team and national anthem?

Richard McLaren: That's not a matter of what I believe. That's really a matter of what sanctions if any are going to be imposed not by me but by the International Olympic Committee and possibly international federations. It really depends on how things go. So my view of whether they should be at the Winter Olympic Games or not is really just a personal view it's not connected to my report, there are others who need to make those decisions, not me.

Olympic Park in Pyeongchang © Sputnik, Ramil Sitdikov
Sputnik: Do you think the scandal has been blown out of proportion?

Richard McLaren: Well I said at the end of the December press conference that I thought it was time that people got together, talked out the issues not in the press but privately and worked out solutions and I called for everybody to do that and I am disappointed to see that… Well there've been attempts, I think both sides are trying to work hard at it, it hasn't borne much fruit at this point.
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