Richard McLaren won't cooperate with IOC commission until communications secure

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Canadian law professor Richard McLaren told on Monday he will not cooperate with one of two International Olympic Committee commissions following up on his investigation of systemic sports doping in Russia until he is assured that his communications with that commission are secure.

McLaren, interviewed several hours before he made a formal presentation at a World Anti-Doping Symposium, said Russia "is edging slowly" toward reform of its discredited anti-doping infrastructure. He added that he has a solid working relationship with an IOC commission headed by Swiss member Denis Oswald that is tasked with evaluating cases against more than two dozen Russian athletes stemming from the Sochi 2014 Games.

But McLaren said he has refused to furnish any more information to a second commission -- chaired by Samuel Schmid of Switzerland and assigned to address the question of who was responsible for systemic manipulation of anti-doping samples -- since correspondence from the commission made its way into the Russian media via a hacking attack. In the past six months, hackers have obtained and released extensive correspondence and documents from WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, including athletes' personal medical information and investigative materials.

A December cover letter, spreadsheet and questionnaire signed by IOC chief ethics and compliance officer Paquerette Girard Zappelli that requested greater detail on officials and government entities mentioned in McLaren's independent WADA-commissioned report was posted by Russian outlets in February. The responses by McLaren and his investigative team were not divulged, but McLaren said he had no choice but to stop cooperating.

"I've asked for an explanation of [the cybersecurity issue] and heard nothing about that," he said. "Until I hear why that occurred, I won't be providing anything to them because they can't be sure it would be secure."

IOC spokesman Mark Adams emailed this response:

"The questionnaire appears to have been hacked as Mr. McLaren knows very well. We have offered to sign a confidentiality clause and the Commission remains open to cooperation in the interests of the clean athletes. There are secure methods to do this.

"The Commission hopes that Mr. McLaren will be able to allow the findings and evidence of his report to be fully communicated to the athletes, officials and institutions, so that their right of defence is respected, which is an accepted part [of] any judicial system."

A composed but clearly frustrated McLaren said in the interview that his findings continue to be the subject of counterproductive infighting between the IOC, WADA and other international sports governing and anti-doping bodies.

He was preceded on stage at the WADA symposium by Russia's new Minister of Sport, Olympic fencing champion Pavel Kolobkov, who mixed defiant denial with promises of commitment and a slice of concession in his update on anti-doping reform.

Kolobkov was appointed Russia's Minister of Sport last October, replacing Vitaly Mutko, who was implicated in McLaren's findings. The former athlete said his country's anti-doping agency (RUSADA), suspended since November 2015, would ask for provisional reinstatement from WADA in May and aims to be fully compliant in November. However, with the question of Russian eligibility for the February 2018 Winter Games and its role as host of the 2018 World Cup next summer looming, WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said Monday that RUSADA had "significant" work to do to meet international standards.

WADA's 2016 testing statistics in Russia reflect the vacuum that needs to be filled. Under the oversight of UK Anti-Doping, 2,300 tests were performed last year on athletes in 32 sports, more than three-quarters of them out of competition. But an equal number -- 2,344 "planned tests'' -- were cancelled due to understaffing in sample collection. In November 2016, WADA reported that it was still encountering obstruction in testing efforts.

Kolobkov, speaking rapidly from prepared remarks, outlined measures he said had put RUSADA and the national laboratory in Moscow -- where top athletes' positive samples were falsely reported as negative or went unreported, and numerous samples were ultimately destroyed -- on solid footing. But he also lashed out at former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled to the U.S. and blew the whistle on his own misdoings.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, who listened from the audience, noted that "a lot of things were promised. Let's hope at some point the words match the action. Their athletes who were abused by the system deserve it, and the athletes of the world who competed against their dirty athletes deserve it."

Continued disparaging of McLaren's findings is "Play 1 from their playbook, a classic defense mechanism that doesn't help to move things forward," Tygart said.

McLaren has consistently defended the strength of evidence he helped gather, first as member of a commission examining doping and corruption in the Russian track and field federation, and then independently, following former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov's explosive account of sample-swapping and sabotage at the Sochi Games in The New York Times last May. He has also repeatedly clarified that his mandate was not to build cases against individual athletes, but to delve into organized manipulation of the anti-doping process.

"I think it's time to say everybody's on the same path here, and we need to get together, get to the bottom of this and fix it and move on," McLaren said. "My view is that there are far too much politics going on between these organizations and they need to sit down and talk to each other ... But they have to do it. I can't force them to do it. I just observe it."

McLaren said his communications with the Oswald Commission have been "effective." The commission has not formally interviewed him, but made requests for information, most recently Monday morning. Oswald, who attended the symposium in Lausanne, told he and McLaren have a long-standing, mutually respectful professional relationship from their years as arbitrators for the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In both his public remarks and the interview, McLaren emphasized that the interests of athletes must not be lost amid bureaucratic turf wars.

"They're the people who are forgotten in this problem that is going on these days," he said. "I'm also keen to see Russia, which is a great athletic nation, be an honest and fair competitor. Which I think they want to do, too. All these comments that have come from the [Russian] president [Vladimir Putin] and [Kolobkov] are directed at trying to get back inside the tent. And the international sporting community, I think, wants them to get back inside. The question is how do you get there, and under what terms?"