David Owen

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach's 121-word reaction to part two of the McLaren report contained some tough talk.

The document demonstrated, he said, "a fundamental attack on the integrity of sport".

"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 from the Olympic Games in whatever capacity."

But it was missing something that is badly needed if the IOC is to redeem its reputation as any sort of moral authority in its field: an apology.

Far from apologising to clean athletes who trusted the system to give them a fair crack of the whip, indeed, the 1976 fencing gold medallist seems, by underlining his own status as an Olympian, to imply that he is as much of a victim in this sorry affair as they are.

Perhaps that is how he sees himself; I doubt many would share this assessment.

Of course, Bach need shoulder no direct culpability for the methodology set out in mind-numbing detail by the mild-mannered but clearly imperturbable Canadian professor.

As global figurehead of a sporting system that has evidently failed rule-abiding athletes to, I won’t say an unimaginable, but to a quite unacceptable degree, however, he really ought to say sorry - as well as promising to use his good offices to help establish a global anti-doping regulator, and separate testing authority, not controlled by those with any sort of commercial, or overly nationalistic, stake in sport’s success.

The people and institutions involved in the schemes that McLaren delineates are still under dispute.

Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Alexander Zhukov told TASS, Russia’s official news agency, that "no system of state support for doping in Russia has ever existed or exists".

Should International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach apologise? ©Getty Images
Should International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach apologise? ©Getty Images

McLaren himself acknowledged that "we don’t have any evidence that members of the Russian Olympic Committee were involved in this conspiracy".

What is not in doubt is that droves of Russian athletes competed 'dirty' at major competitions in the last nine years, with many of them going undetected until well after the event, if not still.

McLaren’s verdict on London 2012, so successful in so many ways, is, as he told media representatives gathered in the city last week, that the Russian Olympic team "corrupted" the Games " on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be established".

As for Sochi, chapter six of the report alleges "a carefully orchestrated conspiracy…"

"While it will never be possible to establish the exact number of individuals involved or their specific roles," the report continues, "the sum of all their collective group efforts undoubtedly denied other competitors a level playing field which would generate an equal opportunity for a fair chance to win medals".

One of the most disturbing things for me is that the sports authorities missed a golden opportunity to take responsibility for analysing Games-time samples away from Russia.

A meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) disciplinary committee in November 2013 might have led to the Moscow laboratory’s suspension less than three months before the Sochi Games.

Richard Pound, the former WADA President who was chairing the committee, told insidethegames at the time that the laboratory should be suspended because it was not "sufficiently reliable".

(While a laboratory was constructed at Sochi, it was viewed as a satellite facility of this Moscow lab.)

In the event, the laboratory was given another two weeks to bring itself up to standard.

A detailed account of the episode in the report of the Independent Commission (IC) formed by WADA under the Presidency of Pound in December 2014, which was published in November 2015, reads as follows:

Richard McLaren has presented some hard-hitting findings ©Getty Images
Richard McLaren has presented some hard-hitting findings ©Getty Images

"It is understood by the IC that despite the substandard performance of the laboratory, there was a distinct desire not to revoke the accreditation of the laboratory prior to the Sochi Olympics.

"A temporary solution was, therefore, reached for the period of the Olympics, with further actions to be approved by the WADA Laboratory Committee following the Games.

"Such remedial actions remained uncompleted well after the established deadline."

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that a trawl of the insidethegames archive for the months leading up to Sochi 2014 reveals that, while plenty of Russian athletes might have been avoiding detection by the anti-doping authorities, many were not.

In October 2013 when it was announced that European 5,000 metres champion Olga Golovkina had been suspended after failing a drug test, insidethegames Editor Duncan Mackay reported that she was the 32nd Russian athlete to have been banned that year.

Later the same month, on his first visit to Sochi since being elected IOC President, Bach told Vladimir Putin, his Russian opposite number, that "the success of Olympic Games also very much depends on the success of the home team".

He added: "I hope that very soon, I will once again have the chance to meet [Putin] in Sochi and to personally award gold medals to your athletes."

There is one other detail from the new McLaren report that I must admit really intrigues me.

It concerns Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow laboratory director whose allegations triggered McLaren’s appointment.

This is the disclosure that while Rodchenkov was ill in 2011, WADA "questioned the Ministry of Sport as to Dr Rodchenkov’s whereabouts and indicated that if his return was unlikely, WADA intended to appoint a foreign director as his replacement".

Were WADA already suspicious?

Thomas Bach told Vladimir Putin that "the success of Olympic Games also very much depends on the success of the home team" prior to Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach told Vladimir Putin that "the success of Olympic Games also very much depends on the success of the home team" prior to Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images

Or, on the contrary, knowing that their suggestion would not be, as the report puts it, "a satisfactory situation" for the Ministry, might this have been a ruse to encourage the Russians to keep him in place?

McLaren also alleges that Rodchenkov had been an agent of the FSB, the Russian federal security service, since 2007.

The IC report, meanwhile, alludes to an "unsolicited" meeting between Rodchenkov and WADA science director Olivier Rabin on 11 January 2014, just a month before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

During this meeting, the report states, "Rodchenkov affirmed Dr Rabin’s assessment of the Moscow laboratory having external interferences with the analytical operations".

Rodchenkov, the report adds, stated that "he was operating in a system where he was forced to do things in his position", although he would not elaborate.

Later that month, testing would start in an exercise described by the WADA Independent Observers as "a milestone in the evolution of the Olympic Games anti-doping program".

It was a milestone alright.