McLaren published an independent report into doping in sport
Report claims Russia ran a state-sponsored doping programme
McLaren says he has since received threats
He is the man who lifted the lid on one of the biggest doping scandals in sport history.
The fallout from Professor Richard McLaren’s two reports, which claimed there was an orchestrated program of cheating involving the Russian ministry of sport, Federal Security Service (FSB) and national sports and anti-doping bodies between 2011 and 2015, has been considerable.
Russia has arguably been embarrassed on the world stage and the majority of its track and field athletes remain excluded from international events.
Likewise McLaren’s conclusion that the 2012 Olympics was “corrupted on an unprecedented scale,” would have made for uncomfortable reading for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Given those ructions, perhaps it shouldn’t be altogether surprising that there’s also been a personal fallout for the Canadian law professor.
“I’ve received various threats by email sources, but I don’t pay attention to those,” McLaren tells CNN, speaking nearly 10 months on since the publication of his first report.
“I like to be careful about my personal well being, but I don’t have any concerns.
“It’s very common when something like this is produced and goes in the public domain to attack the messenger because by attacking the messenger you don’t have to deal with the message.
“Well, it’s time to deal with the message and forget about the messenger.”
‘You expect to be isolated’
The Canadian, who was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in May 2016, says he had “no idea” he would discover what he did when he first started his investigation.
The McLaren report said that more than 1,000 Russian athletes across at least 20 sports, including football, were involved in or benefited from doping, with medalists implicated not only at London 2012 but the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
His second report, published in December 2016, provided supporting evidence to his initial findings, with the Canadian claiming there was an “institutionalized” conspiracy in the country.
“When you take on a role like I’ve taken on you expect to be somewhat isolated,” he said.
“You expect to be not be everybody’s favorite person to see or talk with. That all goes with the territory.
“Alright, they may be bigger, stronger and more powerful, but I think they might find that there are lots of things that I can do as an independent person running this inquiry, which is now finished, which will require them to respond.”
‘Invigorated involvement of athletes’
McLaren has previously spoken about his frustrations with the lack of action taken by sports bodies in response to his findings and, four months after the publication of the second report, he still believes the response to his investigations continues to be “very slow.”
In December, just days after he published his second report, a widespread boycott of the bobsleigh and skeleton world championships saw the event pulled from Russia and moved to Germany.
Amid all the politicking, McLaren is full of praise for the athletes for taking action.
“One of the great benefits that’s come out of my work has been the new, invigorated involvement of athletes who are current competitors pushing their own sport organization to respond and be responsive to what’s going on,” he said.
“They’re demanding responses from the people in charge of these organizations. I think that’s a very positive, progressive step – perhaps the most important when we look back in a couple of years’ time.”
Protecting clean athletes
McLaren’s first report was met with denials from Russia and calls for more proof from the IOC.
Last August, he accused the IOC, via the Guardian, of misrepresenting his findings and said it did not speak to him or his team before deciding to let Russian athletes compete at Rio 2016, subject to certain conditions.
The IOC, choosing not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes at last summer’s Olympics, left the decision instead to individual sporting federations over whether the country’s athletes could compete.
Athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, extended Russia’s ban in December, which had covered the Olympics, from international athletics competitions and in April said Russia was making “little progress” cleaning up its doping culture to secure its reinstatement.
In February, WADA said there were “certain discrepancies” in the report, while McLaren has had to defend his investigation, saying in March that comments by sports bodies – including the IOC – which referred to inadequate translations of Russian documents was “nitpicking.”
However in March, Russian President Vladimir admitted that the country’s anti-doping system had failed.
“The main thing is that despite the shortcomings in the work of [Mclaren’s] independent commission, we should pay attention to what it did, to the results of its work,” Putin was quoted as telling Russia Today.
On Tuesday, McLaren, the IOC and WADA put forward a united front.
McLaren, IOC president Thomas Bach and WADA president, Sir Craig Reedie, issued a joint statement following a meeting between the trio in Lausanne to discuss a strategy for a more “robust and efficient” anti-doping system.
The statement said the IOC’s “Inquiry Commission” would continue to investigate and address the “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system in Russia.
All Russian samples were, said the statement, under investigation by the “Oswald Commission.”
“Our common goal is to do everything possible to protect the clean athletes so that such a systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system can never happen again,” read the statement.