By Eddie Pells
AP National Writer
MONTREAL — The World-Anti Doping Agency is expanding its investigation into doping inside the Russian sports system after a whistleblower alleged four of the country’s gold medalists from the Sochi Olympics were on steroids.
WADA announced the long-called-for expansion of the probe Tuesday, two days after Vitaly Stepanov told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he had conversations with the former director of the Moscow anti-doping lab, who told him there was a “Sochi List” that included four champions from the 2014 Games.
“The claims made in the program offer real cause for concern, as they contain new allegations regarding attempts to subvert the anti-doping process at the Sochi Games,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.
Stepanov said the former lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, told him that agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) acted as doping control officers during the Olympics, which severely compromised the lab’s integrity.
Natalya Zhelanova, the anti-doping adviser to Russia’s sports minister, said the ministry would cooperate with any WADA investigation.
“Of course we’re disturbed by Stepanov’s statements, but he has no connection to anti-doping activity,” she told the R-Sport Agency. “I want to state that no one has heard this from Rodchenkov.”
After Stepanov and his wife, 800-meter runner Yulia, first revealed details of widespread cheating inside the Russian track program, WADA appointed an independent commission, headed by its former president, Dick Pound, to look into the corruption.
Among Pound’s conclusions was that it was hard to imagine track and field was the only corrupted sport in Russia. But the WADA mandate didn’t extend beyond track, and a bevy of athletes and anti-doping leaders pushed for WADA to look into other sports.
Six months after Pound’s initial report, and confronted with Stepanov’s new allegations, WADA made its move on the eve of its executive committee meeting where the Russian case will be on the agenda.
“It appears they’re stepping up to the plate,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said. “Let’s hope they roll up their sleeves and get to the bottom of it. Clean athletes are watching.”
As are leaders of the sports that could have been affected in Sochi.
“Now, WADA needs to demonstrate the same level of credibility that the first IC did, and move way faster,” said Max Cobb, the president of U.S. Biathlon. “The delay in broadening the investigation has badly damaged WADA’s credibility.”
Stepanov, a former employee at the Russian anti-doping agency, also told “60 Minutes” that he had sent more than 200 emails to WADA detailing problems inside the Russian anti-doping system, only to be rebuffed. Not until the Stepanovs told their story to a German network that ran a documentary in December 2014 did the WADA probe begin.
The probe led to the suspension of Russia’s track team. Its fate for this summer’s Rio Olympics will be determined next month by the sport’s governing body.
Reedie said WADA had no authority to investigate until a rewriting of the WADA code that took effect in 2015, and leaders thought turning the information over to the Russians, who would have been tasked with looking into the matter, “would not have resulted in the required scrutiny.”
Reedie said Pound’s independent commission spoke with Rodchenkov during its investigation, but Rodchenkov didn’t discuss problems with Sochi testing.
“It is surprising to hear these views so many months after the Commission concluded its work,” Reedie said.