Russia’s controversial anti-doping laboratory now serves ‘B Sample’ and ‘Meldonium’ cocktails

Cheeky drink | The La Punto restaurant: AP

The signage says La Punto but four years ago the building in Sochi housed the anti-doping laboratory for the Winter Olympics where Russia, with the backing of the Kremlin, cheated its way to a golden heist.

The cocktail list at the restaurant includes B Sample and Meldonium, the substance found in Maria Sharapova’s system, amusing drink names but a sign of the lack of contrition as the Games begin here in Pyeongchang.

In 2014, Russia were in the headlines for their gold rush with Vladimir Putin happy to win at any cost.

Over the next fortnight, 169 of their athletes will compete under the farcical title of Olympic Athletes from Russia but that is a faint rap on the knuckles for a state-sponsored doping system, which was exposed by the laboratory’s former director, Grigory Rodchenkov.

A bid by 47 Russians to be added to that team was rejected this morning by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In its ruling, CAS even hinted the International Olympic Committee would have been within its right not to have any Russians competing.

Dick Pound’s initial independent commission turned the spotlight onto Russia’s unique approach to sport and the latest appeals dragging on until the final minute have left a sour taste in the Canadian’s mouth.

“The Russian method has been to appeal everything,” he told Standard Sport. “It’s overshadowed everything to the last minute - and that appears to be the Russian intention from the top.”

It has affected the athletes too. Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold spoke of its emotional impact while one member of the Canadian team had a heated exchange with the Russian contingent in the cafeteria at the athletes’ village.

Pound outspoken stance has been criticised by some in the IOC. The 75-year-old said: “I’m starting to wonder if I’m just old fashioned in that athletes that cheat clean athletes should be sanctioned.”

As part of the bargain with the IOC, those Russians cleared to compete must wear T-shirts with the logo “I Don’t Do Doping” during training but Pound is under no illusion about the level of contrition from higher up.

Pound’s first report for WADA was explosive but it was Richard McLaren’s that laid bare the extent of the cheating. In December 2016 he revealed more than 1,000 Russians had benefited from the doping programme covering 30 sports with a cover-up he deemed “an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy”. Since McLaren’s findings and the IOC’s ensuing Oswald Commission, medals from Sochi are steadily being redistributed, and McLaren warned of a repeat.

“Something people have not considered is that some of these athletes’ international federations have yet to take a lot of these cases, so there may be sanctions for them to deal with next,” he told Standard Sport. “We might have a situation where medals from PyeongChang are later removed.”

Six months into the initial investigation, he found state-sponsored doping still ongoing, “which is pretty bold”.

Gunter Younger was the third part of that Pound triumvirate and also on the independent panel deciding the eligibility of Russian athletes in Korea. The German’s stance remains the same: “I’m confident we’ve done the right thing”.

Younger has since got his hands on Moscow’s Laboratory Information Management System Database from an unknown whistleblower.

Whereas Rodchenkov, who today spoke of the latest threats to his life, and the Stepanovs, whose evidence led to the initial Pound investigation, have become recognised figures, Younger is determined the identity of the current whistleblowers is kept secret.

“No one wants the life the Stepanovs and Rodchenkov now have,” said the former police officer. “I’ve read that some people know where our new information comes from but they’re not even close, and it’s my job to keep the whistleblowers hidden.”

It is likely the IOC will allow Russia to have their own flag at the closing ceremony. McLaren fears that sends out the wrong message and will encourage copycats. “Recent history says there’s a good chance there’s things going on elsewhere we don’t know about,” he says.

Pound, meanwhile, has decided to miss that closing ceremony, and adds: “My sense is it’ll be a full Russian presence at the ceremony.”

Not quite a penance befitting the ills of Sochi.

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