The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) independent Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department has published its summary report following an investigation into allegations that the National Anti-Doping Organization of Ukraine (NADC) engaged in practices that contravened the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI).
WADA I&I’s investigation, known as ‘Operation Hercules’, was launched in 2019, and has uncovered evidence to suggest that since 2012 NADC has conducted unjustified advance-notice sample collections, arranging to test athletes – including groups of athletes – by appointment at the NADC offices. The ISTI states that, save in exceptional and justifiable circumstances, sample collection must take place with no advance warning to the athlete – a fundamental feature of an effective, unpredictable testing program.
WADA I&I Director, Gunter Younger, said: “‘Operation Hercules’ has convincing and corroborated evidence that NADC was engaged in the practice of telephoning athletes or contacting them through their coaches to request their attendance at the NADC, the following day, for testing. The evidence suggests that NADC would adopt this practice often before important international events and there were times when an entire discipline of the national team was present at the NADC awaiting testing.”
In addition, ‘Operation Hercules’ has compelling evidence to suggest that in 2021, NADC knowingly reported at least six in-competition samples as out-of-competition samples, in contravention of various articles of the World Anti-Doping Code and the ISTI. The Doping Control Forms (DCFs) for the six misreported samples confirm they were collected in competition but, in each instance, the DCFs listed the sample as being collected “out-of-competition”.
WADA I&I commissioned a re-analysis of these six samples through the in-competition laboratory analysis menu, which includes more prohibited substances than the out-of-competition analysis menu. All sample results were returned negative (i.e. without a prohibited substance).
Mr. Younger said: “The evidence suggests the samples were misreported under instruction and for the purposes of meeting the minimum number of out-of-competition tests required from an athlete prior to attending the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The failure to correctly record a sample as either in or out-of-competition has ramifications that affect the analysis conducted by the laboratory as some substances and methods are prohibited in competition only. In this way, a positive test could be incorrectly categorized as negative and an athlete could evade an anti-doping rule violation as a result.
“‘Operation Hercules’ has raised serious questions about the integrity of NADC’s testing practices, and the competence of some staff. Moreover, the apparent longevity and brazenness of these practices suggests significant organizational failings within NADC.”
Due to the gravity of the allegations and the risk posed by any continuation of the alleged non-compliance by NADC, ‘Operation Hercules’ provided all pertinent information from its investigation to the relevant entities prior to the finalization of this report. This included the relevant departments of WADA, namely, the Compliance, Rules and Standards Department and the Testing Department, for their immediate action. A compliance process has been initiated regarding NADC, under the provisions of the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories.
‘Operation Hercules’ also investigated allegations that a doping and protection scheme existed within the Ukrainian Athletics Federation (FLAU) but found no evidence to support this charge. However, potential evidence of erythropoietin (EPO) trafficking was identified against an individual from within FLAU. The individual in question has denied the allegation and ‘Operation Hercules’ has reported this matter to the Athletics Integrity Unit for its consideration.
Note: The names of those involved in the investigation have been withheld from the summary report in order to protect their privacy rights, in accordance with the terms of the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information