Doping in Russian sports has a systemic nature. Russia has had 41 Olympic medals stripped for doping violations – the most of any country, more than three times the number of the runner-up, and more than one-quarter of the global total.
- 1 Background: Soviet era
- 2 Doping issues from 2001 to 2009
- 3 Allegations of state-sponsored doping and 2014 ARD documentary
- 4 Aftermath
- 4.1 2015
- 4.2 2016
- 4.3 2017
- 4.4 2018
- 4.5 2019
- 5 International competitions
- 6 Media coverage
- 7 Reactions
- 8 Statistics
- 9 Hashtag controversy
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Background: Soviet era
According to British journalist Andrew Jennings, a KGB colonel stated that the agency's officers had posed as anti-doping authorities from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to undermine doping tests and that Soviet athletes were "rescued with [these] tremendous efforts". On the topic of the 1980 Summer Olympics, a 1989 Australian study said "There is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner, who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might as well have been called the Chemists' Games."
Documents obtained in 2016 revealed the Soviet Union's plans for a statewide doping system in track and field in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Dated prior to the country's decision to boycott the Games, the document detailed the existing steroids operations of the program, along with suggestions for further enhancements. The communication, directed to the Soviet Union's head of track and field, was prepared by Dr. Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture. Portugalov was also one of the main figures involved in the implementation of the Russian doping program prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Doping issues from 2001 to 2009
Multiple Russian biathletes were involved in doping offences in run-up to the 2010 Olympics. The president of the International Biathlon Union, Anders Besseberg, said, "We are facing systematic doping on a large scale in one of the strongest teams of the world."
Reviewing 7289 blood samples from 2737 athletes from 2001 to 2009, a report found that the number of suspicious samples from "Country A" notably exceeded other countries. One of the authors said that Country A was Russia.
In October 2009, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss wrote to Valentin Balakhnichev that blood samples from Russian athletes "recorded some of the highest values ever seen since the IAAF started testing" and that tests from the 2009 World Championships "strongly suggest a systematic abuse of blood doping or EPO-related products."
Allegations of state-sponsored doping and 2014 ARD documentary
In 2010, an employee at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Vitaly Stepanov, began sending information to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleging that RUSADA was enabling systemic doping in athletics. He said that he sent two hundred emails and fifty letters over the course of three years. In December 2012, Darya Pishchalnikova sent an email to WADA containing details of an alleged state-run doping program in Russia. According to The New York Times, the email reached three top WADA officials but the agency decided not to open an inquiry but instead forwarded her email to Russian sports officials. In April 2013, having failed a doping test for the second time (after a previous two-year doping ban in 2008–2010), Pishchalnikova was banned by the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) for ten years, in a move that was likely in retaliation. Her results from May 2012 were annulled, thus setting her on track to lose her Olympic medal. British journalist Nick Harris said that he contacted the IOC with allegations about Grigory Rodchenkov's laboratory in Moscow in early July 2013.
According to Stepanov, "Even at WADA there were people who didn't want this story out," but he said that a person at the organization put him in contact with the German broadcaster ARD. WADA's chief investigator Jack Robertson believed that the organization was reluctant to take action and that media attention was necessary, so he obtained the permission of WADA's director-general, David Howman, to approach an investigative reporter called Hajo Seppelt, who had previously reported on doping in East Germany and other countries. In December 2014, ARD aired Seppelt's documentary, "Geheimsache Doping: 'Wie Russland seine Sieger macht'" ("The Doping Secret: 'How Russia Creates its Champions'"), which uncovered alleged Russian state involvement in systematic doping, describing it as "East German-style". In the documentary, Stepanov and his wife Yuliya Stepanova (née Rusanova), claimed that Russian athletics officials had supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete's earnings and had also falsified tests in cooperation with doping control officers. It included conversations that had been secretly recorded by Stepanova, e.g. Russian athlete Mariya Savinova saying that contacts at a Moscow drug-testing laboratory had covered up her doping. Russian long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova allegedly paid 450,000 euros to cover up her positive doping result. According to the allegations, Dr. Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture, who stands accused of organising state-sponsored doping in the Soviet Union, dating back to the early 1980s, was also involved in the recent Russian doping programme.
In January 2015, then-All-Russia Athletic Federation President Valentin Balakhnichev resigned as treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
In response to the ARD documentary, WADA commissioned an investigation headed by former anti-doping agency President Dick Pound, the report of which was published on 9 November 2015. The 335-page document, described as "damning" by The Guardian, reported widespread doping and large-scale cover-ups by the Russian authorities. It stated that the Federal Security Service (FSB) had regularly visited and questioned laboratory staff and instructed some of them not to cooperate with the WADA investigation.:196–197 Two staff members said that they suspected that the offices and telephones were bugged.:196–197 The report recommended that ARAF be declared non-compliant with respect to the World Anti-Doping Code and that the IOC should not accept any 2016 Summer Olympics entries from ARAF until compliance was reached.
A day later, WADA suspended the Moscow Anti-doping Center, prohibiting the laboratory "from carrying out any WADA-related anti-doping activities including all analyses of urine and blood samples." On 13 November, the IAAF council voted 22–1 in favour of prohibiting Russia from world track and field events with immediate effect. Under other penalties against the ARAF, Russia has been also prohibited from hosting the 2016 World Race Walking Team Championships (Cheboksary) and 2016 World Junior Championships (Kazan), and ARAF must entrust doping cases to Court of Arbitration for Sport. ARAF accepted the indefinite IAAF suspension and did not request a hearing. ARAF's efforts towards regaining full IAAF membership will be monitored by a five-person IAAF team. On 18 November 2015 WADA suspended RUSADA, meaning that Russia does not have a functioning NADO for any sport.
In November 2015, France began a criminal investigation into former IAAF president Lamine Diack, alleging that in 2011 he accepted a 1 million euro bribe from the ARAF to cover up positive doping results of at least six Russian athletes.
January to May 2016
In January 2016, the IAAF gave lifetime bans to the former head of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, and a top Russian coach, Aleksey Melnikov.
Two former directors of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinev and Nikita Kamaev, both died unexpectedly in February 2016. The Sunday Times reported that Kamaev had approached the newspaper shortly before his death planning to publish a book on "the true story of sport pharmacology and doping in Russia since 1987". Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of a prominent laboratory who has been described by WADA as "the heart of Russian doping", was fired by Russian authorities and fled in fear of his safety to the United States, where he shared information with the help of filmmaker Bryan Fogel, which was documented in the film Icarus.
In March 2016, German broadcaster ARD aired a documentary called "Russia's Red Herrings", alleging that athletes were alerted about testing plans and offered banned substances by individuals at RUSADA and ARAF. According to a May 2016 report in The New York Times, whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said that doping experts collaborated with Russia's intelligence service on a state-sponsored doping programme in which urine samples were switched through a hole in the laboratory's wall. He said that at least fifteen medalists at the 2014 Winter Olympics were involved. On 19 May, WADA appointed Richard McLaren to lead an investigation into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
On 15 March 2016, The International Olympic Committee announced that they were re-analyzing stored urine samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics using more advanced analytical methods to detect banned substances that would have gone unnoticed at the time of competition. Specific sports and countries were targeted, this included in particular athletes likely to compete in Rio who also competed in London 2012 and Beijing 2008. Athletes from the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics were also being targeted as urine samples can only be stored for 10 years. The re-analysis programme would eventually conclude in November 2017.
Away from the Olympics, Russian heavyweight boxer Alexander Povetkin and tennis player Maria Sharapova would both fail drug tests in March and May respectively, both testing positive for Meldonium. Russian-Finnish footballer Roman Eremenko would also fail a drugs test later on in the year.
An ARD documentary in June 2016 implicated Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko in covering up doping by a football player at FK Krasnodar. In the same month, IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies was provisionally suspended over allegations that he took money to delay naming Russian athletes. According to the BBC, emails from July 2013 showed that Davies had discussed how to delay or soften an announcement on Russians who had tested positive.
In June 2016, WADA released a report stating that the work of its Doping Control Officers (DCO) had been limited by a "significant amount of unavailable athlete reports and missed tests", insufficient or incorrect athlete location information, and little information about the location or date of competitions. Some athletes named military cities requiring special permission to enter as their location and some national championships, including Olympic qualifiers, were held in cities with restricted access due to civil conflicts, preventing testing of the competitors. WADA also reported intimidation of DCOs by armed Federal Security Service (FSB) agents; "significant delays" before being allowed to enter venues; consistent monitoring by security staff; delays in receiving athlete lists; and opening of sample packages by Russian customs. 90% of Russian athletes did not respond or "emphatically" refused when WADA requested to interview them as part of its investigation. Director general David Howman stated, "It was the very right time for those who considered themselves clean [to approach WADA]. They had nine months, plenty of time, and none came forward."
On 17 June, the IAAF Council held an extraordinary meeting "principally to give the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) a further opportunity to satisfy the Reinstatement Conditions for IAAF Membership." A task force chaired by Rune Andersen recommended against reinstating Russia after reporting that criteria had not been met and that there were "detailed allegations, which are already partly substantiated, that the Russian authorities, far from supporting the anti-doping effort, have in fact orchestrated systematic doping and the covering up of adverse analytical findings." The IAAF voted unanimously to uphold its ban.
A week later, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) decided to give a one-year ban to Russia, along with two other countries; on 3 August 2016 the IOC ratified the decision, and Russia's weightlifting team missed the 2016 Summer Olympics.
On 18 July 2016, Richard McLaren, a Canadian attorney retained by WADA to investigate Rodchenkov's allegations, published a 97-page report covering significant state-sponsored doping in Russia. Although limited by a 57-day time frame, the investigation found corroborating evidence after conducting witness interviews, reviewing thousands of documents, analysis of hard drives, forensic analysis of urine sample collection bottles, and laboratory analysis of individual athlete samples, with "more evidence becoming available by the day.":5 The report concluded that it was shown "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Russia's Ministry of Sport, the Centre of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow had "operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes" within a "state-directed failsafe system" using "the disappearing positive [test] methodology" (DPM) after the country's poor medal count during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. McLaren stated that urine samples were opened in Sochi in order to swap them "without any evidence to the untrained eye". The official producer of BEREG-KIT security bottles used for anti-doping tests, Berlinger Group, stated, "We have no knowledge of the specifications, the methods or the procedures involved in the tests and experiments conducted by the McLaren Commission."
According to the McLaren report, the DPM operated from "at least late 2011 to August 2015.":35 It was used on 643 positive samples, a number that the authors consider "only a minimum" due to limited access to Russian records.:39 The system covered up positive results in a wide range of sports::41
- Athletics (139)
- Weightlifting (117)
- Non-Olympic sports (37)
- Paralympic sport (35)
- Wrestling (28)
- Canoe (27)
- Cycling (26)
- Skating (24)
- Swimming (18)
- Ice hockey (14)
- Skiing (13)
- Football (11)
- Rowing (11)
- Biathlon (10)
- Bobsleigh (8)
- Judo (8)
- Volleyball (8)
- Boxing (7)
- Handball (7)
- Taekwondo (6)
- Fencing (4)
- Triathlon (4)
- Modern pentathlon (3)
- Shooting (3)
- Beach volleyball (2)
- Curling (2)
- Basketball (1)
- Sailing (1)
- Snowboard (1)
- Table tennis (1)
- Water polo (1)
In response to these findings, WADA announced that RUSADA should be regarded as non-compliant with respect to the World Anti-Doping Code and recommended that Russian athletes be banned from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The IOC decided to decline 2016 Summer Olympics accreditation requests by Russian sports ministry officials and any individuals implicated in the report, to begin re-analysis and a full inquiry into Russian competitors at the Sochi Olympics, and to ask sports federations to seek alternative hosts for major events that had been assigned to Russia.
On 21 July 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned down an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes. The following day, the International Paralympic Committee began suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia. On 24 July, the IOC rejected WADA's recommendation to ban Russia from the Summer Olympics and announced that a decision would be made by each sport federation. With each positive decision having to be approved by a CAS arbitrator. WADA's president Craig Reedie said, "WADA is disappointed that the IOC did not heed WADA's Executive Committee recommendations that were based on the outcomes of the McLaren Investigation and would have ensured a straight-forward, strong and harmonized approach." On the IOC's decision to exclude Stepanova, WADA director general Olivier Niggli stated that his agency was "very concerned by the message that this sends whistleblowers for the future."
August to September 2016
Originally Russia submitted a list of 389 athletes for the Rio Olympics competition. On 7 August 2016, the IOC cleared 278 athletes, while 111 were removed because of the scandal (including 67 athletes removed by IAAF before the IOC's decision).
Critics noted that Kuwaitis were banned from competing under their own flag (for a non-doping related matter) while Russians were permitted to do so. Due to governmental interference, Kuwaiti competitors were permitted to enter only as independent athletes. Dick Pound stated, "It is not a consistent standard which is being applied now. Not all Kuwait athletes banned from competing in Rio under their own flag were supporters of the regime, and not all South African athletes were supporters of apartheid, but the greater good called for South Africa to be expelled." Germany's Deutsche Welle wrote of "troublesome questions, like why Kuwait's Olympic federation faced a ban from Rio, while Russia's did not. Kuwait's tiny team [...] was suspended because of improper political conduct by the government; Russia's was not, after systematically organizing a doping program for many of its competitors."
Having sent samples for forensic analysis, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) found evidence that the Disappearing Positive Methodology (DPM) was in operation at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi. On 7 August 2016, the IPC's Governing Board voted unanimously to ban the entire Russian team from the 2016 Summer Paralympics, citing the Russian Paralympic Committee's (RPC) inability to enforce the IPC's Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code, which is "a fundamental constitutional requirement". IPC President Sir Philip Craven described the Russian anti-doping system as "entirely compromised" and 18 July 2016 as "one of the darkest days in the history of all sport", and stated that the Russian government had "catastrophically failed its Para athletes". IPC Athletes' Council Chairperson Todd Nicholson said that Russia had used athletes as "pawns" in order to "show global prowess". On 23 August 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Russia's appeal, stating that the IPC's decision was "made in accordance with the IPC Rules and was proportionate in the circumstances" and that Russia "did not file any evidence contradicting the facts on which the IPC decision was based." The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland rejected another appeal by Russia, saying that the RPC "needed to demonstrate it had fulfilled its obligations in upholding... anti-doping protocols, and that its interests in an immediate lifting of its suspension outweigh the International Paralympics Committee's interests in fighting doping and in the integrity of athletics. It did not succeed in this in any way." Rejecting an appeal by ten athletes, a German court stated that the IPC had no obligation to allow them to compete and that the committee had "comprehensibly justified" its decision.
In an interview with NRK, WADA's director general Olivier Niggli said that "Russia is threatening us and our informers", mentioning daily hacking attempts and bugging of houses. He said that the agency had "a pretty good suspicion" that the hackers were Russian and that Western governments were already familiar with them. He stated, "I think this will cease if they stop looking at us as an enemy, and instead accept that there is a problem that we must work together to solve. But for the moment they are sending out completely the wrong signals."
October to December 2016
On 3 November 2016, Russia approved an anti-doping law targeting coaches.
On 15 November 2016, Berlinger introduced a new design for doping sample bottles. A spokesman later said, "We work with forensic specialists from different nations. We want to always stay a little bit ahead of those cheating but you cannot avoid a system like the Russians built up."
On 9 December 2016, McLaren published the second part of his report. The report claimed that from 2011 to 2015, more than 1,000 Russian competitors in various sports (including summer, winter, and Paralympic sports) benefited from the cover-up. However, McLaren later walked back from that assertion when the cases went to court, rephrasing it as not a fact but only a possibility, as recorded on page 68 of the CAS verdict for Alexander Legkov: "Prof. McLaren went on to explain that, in this respect, if his investigation obtained evidence that a particular athlete may have benefited from the scheme, then 'It didn't mean that they did benefit. It didn't mean that they committed [an] anti-doping rule violation.'" Emails indicate that those who might have benefited from a cover-up included five blind powerlifters, who may have been given drugs without their knowledge, and a fifteen-year-old. An IAAF taskforce announced that Russia could not be reinstated because the country still had no functional drug-testing agency and had not accepted the findings of investigations.
January to October 2017
In February 2017, All-Russia Athletic Federation vice-president Andrey Silnov held a press conference in Moscow alongside a former Soviet athlete who said that East German successes due to state-sponsored doping are legitimate results of "good pharmacology" and should not be condemned. Later that month, WADA stated that evidence against many individuals named in the McLaren report might be insufficient because the Moscow laboratory had disposed of doping samples and Russian authorities were not answering requests for additional evidence.
An IAAF taskforce chaired by Rune Andersen published an interim report in April 2017. President Sebastian Coe stated, "There is testing but it is still far too limited. The Russian investigative committee is still refusing to hand over athlete biological passport samples for independent testing from labs, we still have got athletes in closed cities that are difficult or impossible to get to, the ongoing employment of coaches from a tainted system, and we have got the head coach of RUSAF effectively refusing to sign their own pledge to clean athletics." The report also noted the case of whistleblower Andrei Dmitriev, who had fled Russia after being threatened with imprisonment. Coe said, "Anyone with information about a system which has failed to protect the goals and aspirations of clean athletes must feel it is safe to speak out." Andersen questioned the selection of Yelena Isinbayeva, who had called for whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova to be "banned for life", as the chair of RUSADA's supervisory board. Andersen stated, "It is difficult to see how this helps to achieve the desired change in culture in track and field, or how it helps to promote an open environment for Russian whistleblowers", noting that Isinbayeva had called a WADA report "groundless" without reading it, publicly criticised whistleblowers (Dmitriev and the Stepanovs), and had not signed a pledge for clean sport or endorsed a Russian anti-doping group.
In September 2017, WADA rejected Russia's claims that WADA should be held responsible for Rodchenkov, noting that Russia had chosen to appoint him as head of the Moscow laboratory. The organisation also stated, "WADA would expect the Russian authorities to take responsibility for this deliberate system of cheating that was uncovered by the McLaren Investigation – as is stipulated within RUSADA's Roadmap to Compliance – rather than continually shifting the blame onto others." Seventeen national anti-doping organisations criticised the IOC for a "continuing refusal to hold Russia accountable for one of the biggest doping scandals in sports history" and "dereliction of duty [sending] a cynical message that those of favored, insider nations within the Olympic Movement will never be punished or held accountable". They stated that cases had been "shut prematurely before the IOC or IFs have obtained complete evidence from the Moscow laboratory or interviewed the relevant witnesses." An additional 20 NADOs have signed on.
November to December 2017
In November 2017, the IOC disciplinary commission headed by Denis Oswald imposed its first sanctions after a year-long Sochi investigation. As of 22 December 2017, 43 Russian athletes had been sanctioned and 13 medals had been stripped.
On 10 November 2017, the day after Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of stirring up problems for Russian athletes, WADA said in a news release that it had obtained an electronic file that contained "all testing data" from January 2012 to August 2015 – thousands of drug screenings run on Russian athletes. The database, which the Russian authorities were unwilling to share with antidoping investigators, arrived through a whistleblower. The head of the Russian Ski Association, Yelena Välbe, told the press that "whistleblowers are traitors to their country" shortly thereafter. Russia's ski team coach went even further and accused Ilia Chernousov (a skier who won a bronze medal in the 50 km freestyle event) of "leaking information" to WADA.
On 11 November 2017, it was revealed that Grigory Rodchenkov had provided new evidence of Russian state-sponsored doping to the IOC, noting that he would consider going public if the Schmid Commission did not give due weight to his evidence in any public findings.
On 16 November 2017, WADA announced that Russia remained non-compliant with its Code. On 26 November 2017, IAAF decided to maintain Russia's ban from international track and field competitions, saying the country had not done enough to tackle doping.
The last athletes to be sanctioned as part of the International Olympic Committees re-analysis programme was on 30 November 2017. In total, 48 athletes from the 2012 Olympics were sanctioned as part of the programme, this included 22 Russians and 61 from the 2008 Olympics including 19 Russians. Only one athlete was sanctioned from the 2010 Olympics and they were not Russian and no athletes failed tests from the 2006 Olympics.
In an interview with the New York Times, Rodchenkov reported that Yuri Nagornykh, the deputy minister of sport, had asked him to incriminate a Ukrainian athlete, Vita Semerenko, during a competition in Moscow leading up to the Olympics. Rodchenkov did not comply, convincing the minister that a retest of the drug sample would show the drugs had been spiked into the sample rather than passed through a human body. "I could not have done this to an innocent athlete," he said. "During my career, I reported many Dirty Samples as clean, but never the other way around."
On 5 December 2017, the IOC announced that the Russian Olympic Committee had been suspended with immediate effect from the 2018 Winter Olympics, but their concession was to allow those Russian athletes with no previous drug violations and a consistent history of drug testing to compete under the Olympic Flag as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia" (OAR). Under the terms of the IOC's edict, no Russian government officials were permitted to attend the Games, and neither the Russian flag nor the Russian national anthem would be featured; the Olympic Flag and Olympic Anthem were to be used instead. On 20 December 2017, the IOC proposed an alternative logo for the OAR athletes' uniforms (shown on right). IOC President Thomas Bach said that "after following due process [the IOC] has issued proportional sanctions for this systematic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes."
As of January 2018, the IOC had identified 43 Russian athletes from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi that it intended to ban from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics and all other future Olympic Games as part of the Oswald Commission. All but one of those athletes appealed against their bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The court overturned the sanctions on 28 of the appellants, resulting in their Sochi medals and results being reinstated, but the court ruled that there was sufficient evidence against eleven of the athletes to uphold their Sochi sanctions. The IOC issued a statement saying "the result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games. Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation" and that "this [case] may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping". The IOC found it imperative to point out that the CAS Secretary General "insisted that the CAS decision does not mean that these 28 athletes are innocent" and that they would consider an appeal against the court's decision. The court also downgraded the punishment by deciding that the 39 athletes should only be banned from the 2018 Games, not all future Olympic Games. Note that the remaining three Russian athletes are still awaiting their hearings which will be conducted after the 2018 Games. After the partially successful appeal, 47 Russian athletes and coaches launched a further appeal to the CAS, in a final attempt to secure an invitation to the Games. This appeal was dismissed on 9 February 2018, the day of the opening ceremony, a decision that was welcomed by the IOC.
An original pool of 500 Russian athletes was put forward for consideration for the 2018 Games and 111 of those athletes were immediately eliminated from the pool; this included the 43 athletes who had been sanctioned by the Oswald Commission. The remaining 389 athletes were required to meet a number of pre-games conditions, such as a further round of tests and re-analysis of stored samples, and they would only be considered for invitation to the Games providing these requirements were met. The final number of neutral Russian athletes that were invited to compete was 169. However, speed skater Olga Graf chose not to compete, stating that "the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games", bringing the eventual total to 168.
Reaction in Russia
In the past, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and other government officials had stated that it would be a humiliation for Russia if its athletes were not allowed to compete at the Olympics under the Russian flag. However, despite rumours to the contrary, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov later revealed that no boycott had been discussed leading up to the IOC's announcement. After the IOC decision was made public, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of Chechnya, announced that no Chechen athletes would be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. On 6 December 2017, Putin confirmed that the Russian government would not prevent any of its athletes from participating at the 2018 Games as individuals, despite there being calls from other leading Russian politicians for a boycott. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, put forward a proposal to send fans to the Games with a Soviet Victory Banner. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, commented that the United States "fears honest competition", affirming Vladimir Putin's position that the United States used its influence within the IOC to "orchestrate the doping scandal". According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular Russian tabloid newspaper, 86% of the Russian population opposed participation in the Winter Olympics under a neutral flag. Many Russians believed that the IOC was retaliating against Russia for their discriminatory anti-gay law which provoked considerable controversy with the IOC during the 2014 Winter Olympics when it was hosted in Sochi, Russia.
January to February 2018
During the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February 2018, two Russian athletes from the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) delegation failed doping tests and were disqualified: curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii who won a bronze medal in the mixed doubles event; and bobsleigh pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva who finished twelfth in the two-woman event. The IOC expressed their disappointment at the positive doping tests and stated that the OAR team would consequently not be allowed to parade under the Russian flag at the closing ceremony.
Despite the two disqualifications, the IOC announced on 28 February that it had chosen to reinstate Russia's Olympic membership, just days after the end of the Winter Games, as no more cases of doping had been found in the delegation. The surprise decision to lift the suspension provoked anger among the international sporting community. The IOC had planned all along to reinstate Russia after the Games provided there were no more failed tests. Their statement read "The suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee is automatically lifted with immediate effect."
May to August 2018
In the buildup to the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia, lab director and whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said that he recognised one of Russia's players as a doper in one of his own doping programmes. FIFA had opened an inquiry into Russian doping in football after the Mclaren report was published with 33 Russian footballers named in it, but said in May that they had found 'insufficient evidence' of doping but said that some cases with players unrelated to the World Cup were ongoing. The tournament eventually concluded with no players failing a drugs test. A few months after the tournament had concluded in September, the father of Russian player Denis Cheryshev said that his son had been taking growth hormone during the tournament. He was later cleared of doping by anti-doping authorities.
On 20 July. the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) released details of 120 doping cases with some 85 of the cases involve Olympic and World Championships medallists and almost half (47.5%) involve Russians. On 27 July, 10 days before the start of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the IAAF announced that despite making improvements in key areas, Russia would still remain suspended from international athletics competitions. 29 Russian athletes still competed in the championships as Authorised Neutral Athletes, and Russia eventually topped the medal table of the inaugural European Championships.
The World-Anti Doping Agency voted on 20 September whether or not to re-instate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency after they were suspended in 2015. A WADA compliance review committee had recommended that RUSADA be re-instated which sparked anger from international athletes and officials. One of the members of the six-person review committee, Beckie Scott, the chair of WADA'S athletes commission, left her role on the committee in protest over the recommendation to reinstate RUSADA and the vice president of the agency Linda Helleland said that she would vote against their re-admission. A group of athletes from UK-Anti-Doping had earlier called for Russia to remained banned until they had overhauled its Anti-Doping System saying that Russia's re-admission would be 'a catastrophe for clean sport' and a member of US Anti-Doping Agency was quoted as saying 'frankly, it stinks to high heaven'. The former head of the Moscow laboratory turned whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov said that lifting Russia's ban would be a 'catastrophe'.
WADA had insisted that Russia meet two criteria before RUSADA could be re-admitted; accept the findings of the McLaren Report and grant access to Moscow's anti-doping laboratory. The compliance review committee had reviewed a letter from the Russian Sports Ministry that said it had 'sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia' and that they agree to accept the two remaining conditions'.
WADA voted unanimously to re-instate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency at their congress in the Seychelles, going against the wishes of numerous national Anti-Doping agency's around the world. The lawyer for whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov called it "the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history" whilst US Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart said the decision is "bewildering and inexplicable" and a "devastating blow to the world's clean athletes". The decision received so much criticism that the head of WADA, Craig Reedie, had to publicly defend the decision as he came under mounting criticism.
With RUSADA now re-instated, the Russian Athletics Federation launched a legal challenge to the IAAF to overturn their ban from athletics competitions from which they were still suspended. The IAAF, however, refused the request, which was later withdrawn by the Russian athletics federation. By 26 September 2018, 77 Russians were serving doping bans in the sport of Athletics including 72 athletes and 5 coaches and athlete support personnel.
November to December 2018
It was announced in November that the International Olympic Committee would further re-analyse stored samples from the 2012 Olympics, testing for all banned substances. This came after 48 adverse analytical findings were found in previous re-analysis of samples with 22 of them being Russian
On 14 December 2017, Hugo Lowell at The i newspaper reported from Moscow that officials at the Russian Ministry of Sport were still reluctant to cooperate fully with WADA over turning over the testing data from its anti-doping laboratory. WADA subsequently released a statement that said their Expert Team had flown to extract the data. Later, it emerged that WADA was unsuccessful in retrieving the data because their equipment had allegedly not been properly certified.
The reinstatement of RUSADA prompted allegations of bullying and a call for reform within the World Anti-Doping Agency, however the IAAF decided to uphold Russia's suspension from athletics into 2019 with 63 Russian's cleared to compete as neutral athletes for the year. A team of five WADA experts traveled to Moscow on 17 December expected to be given full access to the laboratory, but on arrival they were refused full access which put RUSADA on the brink of being suspended once more with their president Yuri Ganus appealing to Vladimir Putin personally for a resolution.
WADA had set Russia a strict deadline to hand over data from their Moscow laboratory by 31 December, a deadline in which they evidently missed. There we calls for the WADA compliance review committee to meet immediately to consider their next steps, however they decided to meet much later on 14 January which caused anger among the international community with 16 national anti-doping bodies calling for Russia's suspension once more. WADA president Dick Pound described the reaction to their decision as like a 'lynch mob'.
WADA eventually gained full access to the Moscow laboratory on 10 January, 10 days after the initial deadline. The WADA president described it as a 'major breakthrough for clean sport' and said that they were now starting their second phase of authentication and review of the data that had been collected to make sure that it had not been compromised and to build strong cases against Russian athletes that might have doped. WADA eventually managed to retrieve 2262 samples from the Moscow lab. Despite missing the deadline, RUSADA was still deemed compliant and was not punished. The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) said that 'Russia has been granted more chances and, ultimately, leniency than any individual athlete or small country could expect to receive. This is very troubling'.
February to March 2019
It was announced on 8 February that the International Paralympic Committee would now re-instate Russia by 15 March after they were suspended in July 2016. They stated that 69 of the 70 reinstatement criteria had been met with the last criteria being to accept the findings of the McLaren report. Meanwhile, Russia's ban in athletics was upheld by the IAAF 'until further notice' stating that there were two outstanding issues that needed to be resolved.
On 19 March, France issued arrest warrants for two former Russian athletics officials as part of an investigation into a doping cover-up. The former head of Russian athletics Valentin Balakhnichev and the ex-coach of the Russian athletics team Alexei Melnikov, who were both banned from the sport for life in 2016, were targeted.
June to July 2019
Russia's 2008 Olympic High Jump champion Andrey Silnov stepped down from his position as the vice-president of the Russian Athletics Federation in June after it was reported that he was under investigation for a possible doping violation following a re-analysis of his sample from 2013. It was also reported that seven Russian track and field athletes, including athletes from the national team, were caught training in Kyrgyzstan with Vladimir Kazarin, a coach who was banned from the sport for life in 2017 for doping offences. With all of that in mind, Russia was in danger of remaining suspended for the 2019 World Athletics Championships in September after the IAAF voted to uphold their ban, the 11th time they had done so.
The first cases of possible Anti-Doping violations against Russian athletes' samples taken from the Moscow Laboratory were handed over to the individual sporting federations in July. WADA said that the data of 43 athletes had been handed over out of a target pool of 298 athletes. Also in July, the former Russia Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko had his lifetime Olympic ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Although the IOC stated in July 2016 that it would ask sports federations to seek alternative hosts, Russia has retained hosting rights for some major international sports events, including the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2018 FIFA World Cup, and 2019 Winter Universiade. In September 2016, Russia was awarded hosting rights for the 2021 World Biathlon Championships because the IOC's recommendation did not apply to events that had already been awarded or planned bids from the country.
Olympic medalists Steven Holcomb, Matt Antoine, Martins Dukurs, and Lizzy Yarnold questioned the decision to hold the FIBT World Championships 2017 in Sochi, with boycotts considered by Austria, Latvia, and South Korea. Latvia's skeleton team confirmed that it would boycott if Sochi remained the host, saying that the "Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014." On 13 December 2016, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation announced that it would relocate the event. Some athletes were concerned that they might unwittingly ingest a banned substance if the host tampered with food or drinks, while others "were worried about the evidence that Russian laboratories had been opening tamper-proof bottles. If they have opened these bottles to help their athletes, what is to stop them also opening them to tamper with samples from any athlete in the competition?"
Biathlon teams from the Czech Republic and Great Britain decided to boycott a 2016–17 Biathlon World Cup stage in Tyumen. On 22 December 2016, Russia announced it would not host the World Cup event or the 2017 Biathlon Junior World Championships in Ostrov. The same day, the International Skating Union decided to relocate a speed skating event, the 2016–17 ISU Speed Skating World Cup stage in Chelyabinsk, due to "a substantial amount of critical evidence and the uncertainty relating to the attendance of the athletes." Russia was later removed as host of the 2016–17 FIS Cross-Country World Cup final stage and 2021 World Biathlon Championships in Tyumen.
On 22 December 2017, it was reported that FIFA fired Jiri Dvorak, a doctor, who had been investigating doping in Russian football. However, FIFA stated that removal of Dvorak was unrelated to his investigation of doping in Russian sports.
19 national anti-doping organisations recommended suspending Russia from participation in all sports. Russia was suspended from athletics, weightlifting, Paralympic sport competitions, but has continued its participation in other sports.
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Russian doping has been featured in several documentaries broadcast in Germany, France, and the United States:
- Geheimsache Doping: Wie Russland seine Sieger macht (The Doping Secret: How Russia Creates Champions), ARD / Das Erste, aired 3 December 2014
- Geheimsache Doping. Im Schattenreich der Leichtathletik (The Doping Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics), ARD / Das Erste, aired 1 August 2015
- Geheimsache Doping: Russlands Täuschungsmanöver (The Doping Secret: Russia's Red Herrings), ARD / Westdeutscher Rundfunk, aired 6 March 2016
- Russia's Dark Secret, 60 Minutes / CBS News, aired 8 May 2016
- Plus vite, plus haut, plus dopés (Faster, higher, more doped), Arte in partnership with Le Monde, aired 7 June 2016
- Icarus, Netflix, directed by Bryan Fogel, 2017
Some athletes from other countries have criticised WADA, alleging that the agency has been reluctant to investigate Russia despite multiple tips over several years. WADA officials stated that the agency lacked the authority to carry out its own investigations until 2015. Arne Ljungqvist, WADA's former vice chairman, commented that "WADA always had an excuse as to why they wouldn't move forward. They expected Russia to clean up themselves." In June 2016, The Guardian reported that a letter approved by over twenty athletes' groups from multiple sports and countries as well as the chairs of the IOC's and WADA's athletes committees, Claudia Bokel and Beckie Scott, had been sent to IOC president Thomas Bach and WADA head Craig Reedie; the letter criticised the organisations for inaction and silence until the media became involved and said that athlete confidence in the anti-doping system had been "shattered".
On 18 July 2016, WADA's Athlete Committee stated, "Although we have known of the allegations, to read the report today, to see the weight of the evidence, and to see the scale of doping and deception is astounding." The athlete committee, the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations, and the leaders of anti-doping agencies in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States called for Russia to be banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio. After Bach delayed a decision on whether to ban the entire Russian team, IOC member Dick Pound said, "the IOC is for some reason very reluctant to think about a total exclusion of the Russian team. But we've got institutionalized, government-organised cheating on a wide scale across a whole range of sports in a country. You've got to keep from turning [zero tolerance] into: ‘We have zero tolerance except for Russia.'" Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star said, "If the threshold Russia established is not high enough to merit a total ban from an Olympic Games, it's a remarkable precedent to set." Former IOC vice president, Kevan Gosper of Australia, said, "we have to be very careful [about making] the wrong move with an important country like Russia", to which Richard Hind of The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) responded, "And there is the IOC in a nutshell. There are nations, and there are 'important nations'. Not everyone pees in the same specimen jar."
The IOC's decision on 24 July 2016 was criticised by athletes and writers. It received support from the European Olympic Committees, which said that Russia is "a valued member". Cam Cole of Canada's National Post said that the IOC had "caved, as it always does, defaulting to whatever compromise it could safely adopt without offending a superpower." Expressing disappointment, a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission, Hayley Wickenheiser, wrote, "I ask myself if we were not dealing with Russia would this decision to ban a nation [have] been an easier one? I fear the answer is yes." Writing for Deutsche Welle in Germany, Olivia Gerstenberger said that Bach had "flunked" his first serious test, adding, "With this decision, the credibility of the organization is shattered once more, while that of state-sponsored doping actually receives a minor boost." Bild (Germany) described Bach as "Putin's poodle". Paul Hayward, chief sports writer of The Daily Telegraph (UK), remarked, "The white flag of capitulation flies over the International Olympic Committee. Russia's deep political reach should have told us this would happen."
Leaders of thirteen national anti-doping organisations wrote that the IOC had "violated the athletes' fundamental rights to participate in Games that meet the stringent requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code" and "[demonstrated that] it lacks the independence required to keep commercial and political interests from influencing the tough decisions necessary to protect clean sport." WADA's former chief investigation, Jack Robertson, said "The anti-doping code is now just suggestions to follow or not" and that "WADA handed the IOC that excuse [not enough time before the Olympics] by sitting on the allegations for close to a year." McLaren was dissatisfied with the IOC's handling of his report, saying "It was about state-sponsored doping and the misrecording of doping results and they turned the focus into individual athletes and whether they should compete. [...] it was a complete turning upside down of what was in the report and passing over responsibility to all the different international federations."
Some Russians described the allegations as an anti-Russian plot while others stated that Russia was "just doing what the rest of the world does". Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had "never supported any violations in sport, we have never supported it at the state level, and we will never support this" and that the allegations were part of an "anti-Russia policy" by the West. Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of Russia's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said that the IAAF's decision to uphold its ban was "an act of political revenge against Russia for its independent foreign policy." A member of Russia's parliament, Vadim Dengin, stated, "The entire doping scandal is a pure falsification, invented to discredit and humiliate Russia." After the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down an appeal by Russian athletes, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva wrote, "Let all those pseudo-clean foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo gold medals in our absence. They always did fear strength." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the ruling a "crime against sport". A poll by the Levada Center found that 14% of Russians believed that the country's athletes had doped in Sochi, 71% did not believe WADA's reports, and 15% decided not to answer.
A spokesman for Putin called Stepanova a "Judas". The Russian media have also criticised the Stepanovs. Yuliya Stepanova said, "All the news stories call me a traitor and not just traitor but a traitor to the Motherland." Vitaly Stepanov said, "I wasn't trying to expose Russia, I was trying to expose corrupt sports officials that are completely messing up competitions not just inside the country but globally." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the Russian media portrayed the German documentaries as "part of a Western conspiracy with the aim of weakening the great nation that Vladimir Putin lifted from its knees." Hajo Seppelt had the "impression that he and the Stepanovs were being styled as enemies of the state".
Dick Pound described Russia's response as "a bit like when you get stopped for speeding on the freeway by the police and you say 'why me? everyone else was doing it'." He stated that if Russia's authorities had "responded to their issues they could easily have enough time to sort everything out in time for Rio. But instead, they played the role of victims, claiming there was a plot against them for too long." Leonid Bershidsky, a Russian writer for Bloomberg View, wrote that Russia's "officials need to understand that "whataboutism" doesn't avert investigations". The Moscow correspondent of Deutsche Welle, Juri Rescheto, wrote that the response he saw in Russia "shows that the country is living in a parallel universe" and seeks to blame others. Writing for The New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer said that Russia responded to the IAAF's decision against reinstatement with "victimhood" reflecting a "culture of grievances that revolves around perceived slights and anti-Russian conspiracies taking place in the outside world, particularly in Western countries". The newspaper's editorial board also saw a "narrative of victimization" in Russia, and wrote that it resembled how the Soviet Union would respond to a punishment – by saying that it was "politically motivated, always a provocation, never justified. [Even] though the Cold War is long over, President Vladimir Putin remains stuck in the same, snarling defensive crouch in his responses to any accusations of Russian foul play". Andrew Osborn of Reuters wrote that the Russian government had "deftly deflected the blame by passing it off as a Western Cold War-style plot to sabotage Russia's international comeback." In response to Russia's opinion that the allegations were "politically motivated", WADA's former chief investigator, Jack Robertson, said that he saw politics "when Craig Reedie tried to intervene by writing emails to the Russian ministry to console them."
Match TV said that Americans had orchestrated the doping scandal, and modern pentathlon champion Aleksander Lesun called it an unfair "attack", because "Doping is in all countries and there are violators everywhere." Following the IOC's announcement on 24 July 2016, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said it was "a just and fair decision and we hope every federation will take the same kind of decision. Doping is a worldwide evil, not only of Russia." The Russian media's reaction was "nearly euphoric at points."
A reporter from Russian state-owned television told IOC President Thomas Bach that "It looked like you personally were helping us," and asked whether the doping investigation was a "political attack" on Russian athletes. After Russian athletes said that McLaren was about "politics" rather than sport, the British biathlon association stated that their comments were "brain-washed, deluded and dishonest" and decided to boycott an event in Russia. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said that athletes should be "punished" for calls to boycott.
On 7 December 2017, it was reported that Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov paid a Russian Olympic athlete millions of rubles in hush money not to reveal Russia’s elaborate doping scheme. Prokhorov had run the Russian Biathlon Union from 2008 to 2014 and offered legal services to disqualified Russian biathletes.
2017 Sochi bans
The fallout from the IOC bans of Russian athletes caught doping at the Sochi Olympics, which left previous Russian whistleblowers in fear of their own personal safety, has been likened to a "witch-hunt" within the Russian winter sports community. On 9 November 2017, Vladimir Putin called the decisions to ban Russian athletes for doping violations an attempt by the U.S. to undermine his nation and affect the Russian presidential election in March.
According to Russian news agency TASS, the Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said that the investigative committee had found no evidence that the state was operating a doping system; that same committee was seeking whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov's extradition from the United States, where he is in witness protection. Despite reassurances from Russian officials that no doping system existed, IOC official Dick Pound said: "empirical evidence is totally to the contrary, so I think what we're seeing in the Russian press is for domestic consumption."
On 17 November 2017, top Russian Olympic official Leonid Tyagachev said that Grigory Rodchenkov, who had alleged that Russia was running a systematic doping programme, "should be shot for lying, like Stalin would have done".
2018 Olympic ban
The IOC's decision was criticized by Jack Robertson, primary investigator of the Russian doping programme on behalf of WADA, who said that the IOC had issued "a non-punitive punishment meant to save face while protecting the [IOC’s] and Russia’s commercial and political interests." He also emphasized that Russian whistleblowers provided empirical evidence that "99 per cent of [their] national-level teammates were doping." According to Robertson, "[WADA] has discovered that when a Russian athlete [reaches] the national level, he or she [has] no choice in the matter: [it is] either dope, or you’re done"; he added "There is currently no intelligence I have seen or heard about that indicates the state-sponsored doping program has ceased." It was also reported that Russian officials intensively lobbied U.S. politicians in an apparent attempt to achieve the extradition to Russia of the main whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov.
On 6 December 2017 Vladimir Putin announced his decision "not to prevent individual Russian athletes" from participating at the 2018 Winter Games. He also stated that he is pleased the IOC Inquiry Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid "didn't find any proof that the Russian government was involved in a doping conspiracy". However, the Inquiry Commission only said that there's not enough evidence to claim that highest Russian state authorities were involved. The fact that Russian Ministry of Sport and Federal Security Service were part of the scheme was never in doubt.
Deputy (member) of the Russian State Duma and former professional boxer Nikolai Valuev has said that Russia should go to the Olympics and "tear everyone apart to spite these bastards who want to kill our sport".
Despite the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR) designation, many Russian fans still attended the 2018 Games, wearing the Russian colours and chanting "Russia!" in unison, in an act of defiance against the ban.
Justin Peters of Slate magazine wrote during the Games that the IOC "ended up with a situation that seemed to negate the entire point of the sanctions against Russia. The IOC did not want there to be a Russian Olympic team at the Pyeongchang Games ... [yet] arenas are full of teams of Russian Olympians ... [this is] a half-hearted wrist slap issued by an entity that appears more interested in saving face than in protecting athletes".
The CAS decision to overturn the life bans of 28 Russian athletes and restore their medals met fierce criticism among Olympic officials, including IOC president Thomas Bach who described the decision as "extremely disappointing and surprising". Grigory Rodchenkov's lawyer has stated that "the CAS decision would allow doped athletes to escape without punishment" and also that "[the CAS decision] provides yet another ill-gotten gain for the corrupt Russian doping system generally, and Putin specifically".
WADA publishes annual summaries of anti-doping rule violations (ADRV). Russia ranked first in the world for ADRVs during 2013, 2014, and 2015.
|Year||Russian ADRV||Total world ADRV||Russian proportion||Russian rank||As of|
|2013||225||1,953||11.5%||1||15 May 2015|
|2014||148||1,647||9%||1||21 February 2016|
|2015||176||1,901||9.3%||1||31 January 2017|
Stripped Olympic medals
Due to doping violations, Russia has been stripped of 41 Olympic medals – the most of any country, four times the number of the runner-up, and more than a third of the global total. It was the leading country in terms of the number of medals removed due to doping at the 2002 Winter Olympics (5 medals), the 2006 Winter Olympics (1 medal), the 2008 Summer Olympics (14 medals), the 2012 Summer Olympics (13 medals), 2014 Winter Olympics (4 medals) and the joint most at the 2004 Summer Olympics (3 medals) and the 2016 Summer Olympics (1 medal). The 41 revoked medals include 10 Golds, 21 Silvers, and 10 Bronzes.
According to Reuters, Russian trolls were involved in spreading Twitter hashtag #NoRussiaNoGames following the announcement from IOC that Russia is suspended from the 2018 Winter Olympics. One of the accounts identified by Reuters as driving activity around #NoRussiaNoGames was @ungestum, which lists its location as the Russian city of Orenburg. The account has sent 238 tweets consisting of just the hashtag to other users since the ban was announced, indicating that these were computer-generated. The campaign was also highly promoted by a group of at least five accounts which tweeted the hashtag numerous times along with the links that were not related to Russian-language news articles, and repeatedly reposted tweets from each other. One of those accounts, @03_ppm, has sent at least 275 such tweets.
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