A rare voice of dissent in Russia has come from the current head of its antidoping agency, Yuri Ganus. For months, as the crisis has grown, Ganus has spoken out against his country’s handling of the scheme, telling the world that he believed thousands of athlete files had likely been deleted to save the reputations of some of Russia’s most significant figures.
He told The New York Times that the punishment was logical, but he would back an appeal he went on to describe a “mission impossible” to prevent a generation of clean athletes from being punished for a scheme they had no part in. Ganus called on Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to personally become involved. “I think there is only one person who can change the situation,” Ganus said.
Margarita Pakhnotskaya, the deputy head of Russia’s antidoping agency, said that the ban should be a wake-up call for officials in her country who have suggested that Russia was being unfairly targeted.
“This is another reason for sports executives to think about whether we are moving in the right direction,” the Interfax news agency quoted her as saying. “I’m hearing presidents of federations and experts proudly trumpet their activities — ‘We have given all the answers, we’re surrounded only by enemies who are attacking our athletes.’ This all shows that there has been no change in our antidoping culture.”
What happens now, whether Russia can really be brought to account, will go a long way toward determining confidence in the global antidoping system. Investigators have revealed that 145 suspicious cases may not now be able to be solved, raising the possibility that athletes who cheated may be able to travel to Tokyo.
“The obvious intent by manipulating the data was to ensure doped athletes were able to escape sanction,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said recently. “Now we can never know, and all are necessarily part of the cover-up, as sad as it may seem, if there are truly innocent ones. Those in power in Russia threw them all under the bus.”
Russia, perhaps surprisingly, has so far been able to rely on the International Olympic Committee’s president, Thomas Bach of Germany, to escape a blanket ban, the severest penalty that its biggest critics, like Tygart, have long sought.