Russia operated a sophisticated, state-sponsored doping program so its athletes could cheat during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the world's leading anti-doping authority said Monday, in a finding that could see Russia banned from the upcoming Summer Games in Brazil.
The Russian ministry of sport "directed, controlled, and oversaw" the swapping of urine samples and the falsifying of results during the Sochi Games, according to a report compiled by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in response to claims from the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov.
Rodchenkov, who is now in hiding in the U.S., told the New York Times in May that he developed a special three-drug cocktail of banned substances to help dozens of Russian athletes, including at least 15 medal winners, cheat.
Members of the Russian intelligence services secretly tampered with and replaced tainted samples with clean urine collected months earlier, Rodchenkov said, sometimes by passing them through a hole in a wall.
Russia, which topped the Sochi medal count, has vehemently denied the claims.
In his report, Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor and sports lawyer chosen to investigate the matter for WADA, concluded Rodchenkov was a "credible and truthful person" and wrote that his claims were supported by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games," wrote McLaren.
Anti-doping agencies from several countries have already called for all Russian athletes to be banned from the upcoming Games in Rio de Janeiro, which begin on August 5. The Russian track and field team has already been effectively barred from competing based on findings in June by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
After issuing its report, WADA called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider barring all Russian competitors for both the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
“As the international Agency responsible for leading the collaborative, global, clean sport movement, WADA is calling on the Sports Movement to impose the strongest possible measures to protect clean sport for Rio 2016 and beyond," WADA president Craig Reedie said.
In a statement Monday, the IOC said it would "carefully study the complex and detailed allegations" from WADA.
“The findings of the report show a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated."
In a statement late Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized what he said was "a dangerous recurrence of political interference in sport."
"Accusations against Russian athletes are built on the testimony of one man — a man with a scandalous reputation," Putin said.
He also criticized various countries' anti-doping agencies pushing to have Russian athletes barred prior to the release of the WADA report.
However, the Russian president did announce that the officials named in the WADA report would be suspended from office as his country conducts its own investigation.
He called on WADA to "provide more complete, objective, evidence-based information" against the officials to assist Russia with its own investigation.