WADA President Witold Banka. GETTY IMAGES

Russian outlet Sovsport says 282 cases out of the 834 investigations from the former Moscow Laboratory Information Management System by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have been "proven".

Operation LIMS was launched after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was deemed non-compliant by WADA for a second time in December 2019. In April 2020, WADA President Witold Banka called it "the most complex enquiry in anti-doping history" following allegations of Russian state-sponsored doping.

Russia topped the medals table at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow with eight gold medals. They repeated the feat at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics with US-born snowboarder Vic Wild winning two of the team's 13 golds. 

Both events took place without incident. In fact, a large group of Ukrainians unfurled a giant flag in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium to thank Russian fans for supporting heptathlete Anna Kasyanova in her historic world title win. "Russians, thank you! Signed: Ukrainian fans." That was in August 2013.

Ukrainian and Russian fans united at the 2013 World Athletics Championships. INSIDE THE GAMES
Ukrainian and Russian fans united at the 2013 World Athletics Championships. INSIDE THE GAMES

Founded in November 1999, WADA has long been questioned over its dependence on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which provides half of its budget. It has also been accused of double standards with Russia among those alleging it favours countries like the United States and China.

The organisation was chaired by Canadian Dick Pound (1999-2007), the Australian John Fahey (2008-13), Craig Reedie of Scotland (2014-19) and now, since 2020, by the Pole Witold Banka. It has faced a number of controversies including when Justin Gatlin had a lifetime ban after a second failed drug test reduced to eight years after agreeing to co-operate with authorities and due to his first positive test being for medication for attention deficit disorder. The American then appealed successfully for the suspension to be reduced to four years with a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) arbitration panel voting 2-1 in his favour. He went on to beat Usain Bolt in the 100m final at the London 2017 World Championships.

There was also the BALCO scandal, which led to bans for sprinters including Marion Jones and Dwain Chambers, and Nike's Oregon Project with Alberto Salazar - the former coach of Mo Farah and Sifan Hassan - eventually suspended. Kenya has had dozens of runners test positive in recent times and, most recently, WADA has been slammed for its actions in allowing 23 Chinese swimmers to compete at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after testing positive for trimetazidine.

Justin Gatlin after winning the 100m title at the 2017 London World Championships. GETTY IMAGES
Justin Gatlin after winning the 100m title at the 2017 London World Championships. GETTY IMAGES

Sovsport's Veniamin Ostrov argues that Russia is held to a different standard, pointing to the fact that USADA did not administer one in-competition test in 2023 in sports such as bobsleigh, fencing, ice hockey, football, table tennis, tennis, taekwondo and volleyball (although out-of-competition tests were carried out in each).

While InsideTheGames could not verify the figure of 834 total Operation LIMS cases quoted, WADA issued a press release in March saying 250 athletes had been sanctioned with an additional 32 charged (totalling 282). It also said 106 cases remain under investigation.

Like IOC President Thomas Bach, Banka was the victim of a hoax call by Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, aka Vovan and Lexus. Believing he was speaking to an African politician, the Pole denounced September's scheduled Friendship Games, saying, "From a political point of view, I am not sure that we can stop the Russians and force them not to hold these Games. It is more a political question. We have to coordinate our positions with the IOC and other commissions, possibly with the European Union... And we urge those concerned to refuse to take part."