On Eve of Olympics, Top Investigator Details Secret Efforts to Undermine Russian Doping Probe
The International Olympics Committee seems to be hopelessly corrupt, and given the extraordinarily high cost of creating an Olympics venue and the negative payout, I’m surprised that the tradition continues, but then I’m also surprised that anyone could support an obvious con man like Trump.
Still, this story by David Epstein in ProPublica will, I hope, at least raise a few eyebrows, though people less and less frequently face any accountability for misdeeds—unless, of course, they are poor, in which case misdeeds are not even required for punishment.
In a blistering public critique on the eve of the Olympics, the former chief investigator for the World Anti-Doping Agency claims his efforts to investigate Russian doping were repeatedly delayed by WADA’s president, who preferred to privately settle matters with Russian officials.
Jack Robertson, who left the agency in January, said he was forced to leak information to the media in order to pressure WADA president Sir Craig Reedie to act and, even then, he says, the agency sat on credible allegations that suggested Russian doping extended far beyond track and field.
Ultimately, Robertson says, the investigation delays have allowed the president of the International Olympic Committee — who hasreportedly been supported by Vladimir Putin — to claim that the committee didn’t have enough time to determine whether it should ban all Russian teams. The result is that Russia may still have one of the largest delegations in Rio.
In a wide-ranging Q&A, Robertson, speaking publicly at length for the first time, reserved his harshest criticisms for Reedie, a former elite badminton player and chair of the British Olympic Committee. Reedie also holds the potentially conflicting role of vice president of the IOC. (WADA gets a large chunk of its funding from the IOC.) The revelations of systemic Russian doping are an enormous embarrassment for the IOC, as well as a diplomatic problem, since the IOC president and Putin are, according to The Guardian, “the unlikely Olympic power couple.”
The unprecedented Olympic ban of Russia’s track and field team and the allegations that doping extends throughout Russian sport have dominated the news, but Robertson reveals the deep divisions within the agencies charged with protecting clean sport. As the man who led WADA’s investigation of state-sponsored doping, he offers a unique perspective on the unfolding story and describes WADA and the IOC as repeatedly bowing to political concerns and paralyzed by a reluctance to take on a powerful nation.
Some of Robertson’s assertions are directly contradicted in a statement released by WADA Monday, following ProPublica’s request for response.
The decision to speak out is a particularly tough one for Robertson. From 1991 to 2011, Robertson was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, primarily running investigations into Mexican drug cartels. In the last few years of his DEA career, he led the agency’s three largest steroid operations: TKO, Gear Grinder, and Raw Deal. Retired agents once voted him “agent of the year,” out of 5,000, and when he left the DEA he became WADA’s first chief investigator. There, he helped USADA expose Lance Armstrong’s doping. One of Armstrong’s yellow jerseys adorned his office wall at WADA. Armstrong (without realizing exactly who it was for) had signed it: “Jack, Catch me if you can. Best wishes.” . . .