Doping allegations surrounding the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are to be studied by WADA investigators ©Getty Images

Canada’s Richard McLaren is to lead a solo investigation into claims of Russian drug use surrounding the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced today.

McLaren, a member of the three-person WADA Independent Commission which published allegations of systemic and state sponsored doping in Russian athletics late last year, will be considering the claims made by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian Anti-Doping Laboratory.

He alleged in the New York Times that 15 home medal winners were implicated in an intrinsic doping programme in which anabolic steroids were mixed with alcohol, before urine samples were switched in a clandestine night-time operation.

This was so effective it ran “like a Swiss Watch”, alleges Rodchenkov, who has left Russia for Los Angeles and has pledged to work with WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to re-evaluate samples.

McLaren, also a longstanding member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport  will work independently, but will be “supported by the multi-disciplinary team that has been established”, a statement explained.

This team will include WADA’s Investigations Manager, Mathieu Holz, a former Major of the French Gendarmerie and Interpol agent, and Christiane Ayotte, director of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Montreal.

They are expected to speak with both Rodchenkov and fellow whistleblower and former Russian Anti-Doping Agency employee, Vitaly Stepanov.

“[WADA President] Sir Craig Reedie acted swiftly to name Richard McLaren further to requests received by the former director of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov; and, whistleblower, Vitaly Stepanov,” the statement added.

“Dr. Rodchenkov and Mr. Stepanov - that are the informants for this investigation - both expressed concerns regarding ‘independence’.

“These are sentiments that were echoed by Beckie Scott, the chair of WADA’s Athlete Committee. Dr. Rodchenkov and Mr. Stepanov indicated that, in light of a perceived conflict of interest - given that the allegations relate to the Sochi Olympics and that WADA is funded by the IOC - they would only provide evidence in their possession to an independent person.”

Richard McLaren (left) will lead an investigation into doping allegations surrounding Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images
Richard McLaren (left) will lead an investigation into doping allegations surrounding Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images

The investigation  is a major test for WADA as observers become increasingly sceptical of the ability of the sports world to fully deal with Russian doping problems.

The American Department of Justice have also vowed to conduct their own separate investigation.

A “full report” will be published by WADA, with all “pertinent evidence” made available, although no timeline has yet been announced.

The investigation into Russian athletics took over a year from beginning to end, with it very unlikely any conclusions will be published before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

It is also not yet clear how wide the investigation will go, such as whether it will include the Sochi 2014 Paralympic as well as the Olympic Games.

If it is found that there have been violations of the World Anti-Doping Code, however, WADA has vowed to “ensure that individuals or organisations concerned are dealt with in an appropriate fashion”.

“WADA is grateful to Richard McLaren who has, once again, agreed to join a WADA Investigation Team,” added Sir Craig, who is standing down from his position on the IOC Executive Board later this year.

“As President of WADA, I felt that it was in the best interest of clean athletes that we obtain the evidence as quickly as possible.

“Given the sentiments expressed by many of a perceived conflict of interest, we did what’s necessary to follow through on our commitment to get to the bottom of these allegations; while, seeing that impartiality and transparency prevail.”