Liam Morgan

Following the release of his first report, Richard McLaren was the subject of criticism and scrutiny from those who claimed he had no proof.

The vast amount of these dissenting voices came from Russia, of course. They said he had no evidence. They said it was all baseless allegations.

They told the Canadian law professor to go and find the evidence. 

So he did.

What he and his dedicated team managed to uncover forms the basis of a deeply troubling second part of the report - a 151-page document containing damning, disturbing and appalling evidence of a state-sponsored doping system in Russia, which was in place between 2011 and 2015 and was described as an "institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy".

The statistics truly make for grim reading. In a gruesome rebuttal to all the previous doubters, McLaren revealed more than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sport can be identified as having been involved in or benefitting from manipulations to cover up positive tests. According to the Canadian, 246 of these knew exactly what they were doing.

This included at least 600 summer athletes and 95 winter athletes, while McLaren and his investigative squad found proof of the tampering of samples of 12 Olympic medallists from Sochi 2014. Urine collected from six of 21 Paralympic medal winners was also found to have allegedly been interfered with.

Having examined 1,166 documents and more than 4,000 excel spreadsheets, McLaren was unwavering in his condemnation of the doping programme in Russia. He believes the system in place, carefully crafted over an extended period of time to allow Russian athletes to compete with the aid of banned substances, gave the nation licence to "hijack" international sports competitions, including London 2012, which they "corrupted on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be established".

It is the methods and sheer scale of the operation, overseen by the Sports Ministry and implemented by doctors and "magicians" - the FSB agents who were tasked with opening sample bottles in order to carry out the illicit orders from above - which beggars belief.

A particular part of the speech given by McLaren which caught my eye was when he said: "The mechanics of the manipulation and cover up of doping control processes evolved as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) updated and changed the regulatory landscape.

"Our investigation has revealed that for every action by WADA, there was a Russian reaction."

Part two of the McLaren Report proved what he reported in the first part in July ©Getty Images
Part two of the McLaren Report proved what he reported in the first part in July ©Getty Images

Essentially, Russia were always one step ahead. 

Of the drugs testers, of doping control officers and of WADA. Does this reflect badly on the work of WADA as an organisation or was the level of manipulation so vast that even a stronger body would have missed it?

Even when they were closing in, they managed to find an escape route. This included Grigor Rodchenkov, the man whose initial allegations in the New York Times sparked the entire investigation and the chaos that followed, adding coffee granules to a clean urine sample to replicate the appearance of the dirty sample it had been swapped for.

Nescafé was the brand of choice, according to McLaren. Rodchenkov took such drastic action when WADA sent the Moscow Laboratory a notice to save targeted samples as he knew at least 10 of those on the list were dirty. But then he encountered a problem; they only had clean urine stored for eight of them.

"So he got to work," as McLaren describes. 

This is when he took his pot of Nescafé instant coffee granules and set about ensuring the clean sample matched the gravity and appearance of the one it was replacing.

Coffee wasn’t the only foreign substance added to urine. The report states a number of samples were found to have "physiologically impossible" levels of salt - yet more evidence of tampering - on both ends of the scale. 

Some were too low, while the salt recordings on others was off the charts. Science proves that simply does not happen naturally.

Not only that, but thanks to the use of DNA analysis, McLaren’s investigation was able to reveal the samples of two female ice hockey players at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi had been swapped for male ones.

This had been done using a "thin metal strip", which enabled the "magicians" to open the bottles and switch the samples. They left a fatal trace, however, as scratch marks appeared after the device had achieved its purpose.

We were given a fascinating off-the-record briefing by McLaren’s chief investigator Martin Dubbey prior to the publication of the report itself, which outlined how they believed the "thin metal strip" was a key cog in the entire process. It gave all hacks an insight into the technicalities of a small yet integral element of how this system functioned.

While the reaction to the report and the evidence presented from the Russians was as expected as it was frustrating, McLaren was defiant in his defence of the proof of the state-sponsored programme. The professor must have felt more than a touch of vindication as he spoke to the attending media.

Richard McLaren has faced opposition and criticism in Russia to the findings of his report ©Getty Images
Richard McLaren has faced opposition and criticism in Russia to the findings of his report ©Getty Images

"Further forensic and analytical testing, those immutable facts I spoke of earlier and completed since the 1st report provides confirmation of the conspiracy," he said.

"While the narrative of how all these pieces fit together seems like fiction the forensic testing which is based on immutable fact is conclusive.

"The forensic evidence does not rely on verbal testimony to draw a conclusion. Rather it tests the physical evidence, and a conclusion is drawn from the result.

"The result of the forensic and laboratory analysis initiated by my team established the conspiracy that was perpetrated between 2011 and 2015."

What he was not able to do, however, was find a link between the state-sponsored system and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). It was a lack of such a link which played a part in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opting not to impose a blanket ban on athletes from the country at Rio 2016.

"We have no clear evidence of that,” McLaren said. 

Without it, the IOC might struggle to find the legal grounds to impose the level of sanctions many of us had called for in the wake of the publication of the first report.

United States Anti-Doping Agency Travis Tygart countered this particular point in an interview with the BBC yesterday evening, claiming the ROC should still be held responsible as they are the "organisation responsible for the entire sports movement in the country". 

The IOC find themselves in a similar position to pre-Rio 2016, only this time they are armed with substantial and "mmutable" facts provided by the McLaren Report, which will be shared with the two Commissions established by the IOC into the state-sponsored doping allegations. Their decision, one which many thought they got wrong, to allow Russians to take part at the Rio Games was made based on the first report, which did not have the proof given in the second.

It is this which the IOC must base their next decision on Russia. A complete ban on athletes from Pyeongchang 2018 does not seem unreasonable, particularly as the clean athletes which they are often so keen to protect are those who have suffered at the hands of the Russians the most.

Surely the powers-that-be must apologise to the clean athletes who have been wronged at not just London 2014 and Sochi 2014, but at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, the 2013 World Athletics Championships and other major events corrupted in the five-year period detailed by McLaren.

International Olympic Committeed President Thomas Bach called the findings of the second McLaren Report
International Olympic Committeed President Thomas Bach called the findings of the second McLaren Report "a fundamental attack on the integrity of sport" but it remains unclear what action he will take ©Getty Images

They also need to be tough on the International Federations who still see no problem with Russia staging major events. The likes of the governing bodies for bobsleigh and skeleton, both of whom released statements yesterday condemning the actions of Russia and vowing to study the report before taking action, need to hold the country accountable. Strip the events, find an alternative host and move on.

In fairness to the IOC, their response to yesterday’s report was swift and deserves recognition. Extending the mandate of the Oswald Commission, which is looking in to the sample-swapping at Sochi 2014, to include London 2012 was an essential development if we are to begin to comprehend just how deep the corruption from the Russians went.

IOC President Thomas Bach then reiterated his call for anyone involved to be banned from future editions of the Olympics. “Professor McLaren’s completed report demonstrates a fundamental attack on the integrity of sport,” Bach said in a video message.

"For me as an Olympian, any athlete or official who took part in such a sophisticated manipulation system should be excluded for life from any participation in the Olympic Games in whatever capacity."

Others, including Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations chief Joseph de Pencier, were slightly wide of the mark. He compared the situation in Russia to that of the notorious East German doping scheme - state plan 14.25 - where countless athletes were unknowingly doped up to their eyeballs for decades.

The success that followed catapulted them into sporting prominence, especially at the Olympic Games, but the athletes involved suffered devastating consequences, such as serious health problems and even death. 

The two cases, in my opinion, bare similarities but the Russian scandal cannot be compared until competitors in Putin's Empire endure the harms their East German counterparts have at the hands of their own Government.

Unsurprisingly, the response of the Russians yesterday was of complete and utter denial. Among the latest sticks the country has beaten McLaren with are that his latest report is nothing but "lies", while the Sports Ministry reiterated the prominent view in the nation that there is, no matter what a Canadian lawyer might say, no state-sponsored system. In their minds, it does not exist.

The dismissive attitude of Russia will not bother McLaren a jot. After all, he is used to it by now.

Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, called on the Russian Olympic Committee to be suspended following publication of the second McLaren Report ©Getty Images
Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, called on the Russian Olympic Committee to be suspended following publication of the second McLaren Report ©Getty Images

Part two of his report was barely an hour old when the negative reaction from the accused country came flooding in. "This is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us," Russian MP Dmitry Svishchev said.

"I would say read the report. Its findings are not challengeable," McLaren replied. "He is reacting in a vacuum because he has not read the report," 

One politician even went as far as calling for United States President-elect Donald Trump to "put an end to this". 

Somehow, that seems as likely as Russia for once doing the right thing and accepting the findings for what they are: a damning indictment of how they cheated sport and cheated the world.