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How Did Russia Switch Out Urine Samples for Testing in the Sochi Olympics?

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was held in Russia. Several Russians won medals during this event, but most were stripped of them because they were caught using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. But did you know how they were able to go undetected until the last minute?

In the Sochi Olympics, Russians covertly swapped their athletes’ urine samples to hide the fact that they were using drugs. They bore a “mouse” hole into the secure anti-doping lab to do so.

What Happened During the Sochi Olympics?

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov was the director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. A few months after the event, the World Anti-Doping Agency identified Rodchenkov as one of Russia’s leading proponents of the state-sponsored doping program.

Russian officials made Rodchenkov resign from his post. He then moved to Los Angeles out of fear for his life. Two of his close colleagues, also anti-doping officials, mysteriously died months after fleeing the country. He then began his work in uncovering the nation’s doped-up athletics community with the help of American filmmaker Bryan Fogel.

In a three-day interview, Fogel and Rodchenkov discussed how the Russians cheated on the 2014 Winter Olympics. The doctor describes his work in the Olympics as the culmination of his decade-long effort to perfect the country’s doping strategy for international competitions. He claims that his work was a substantial accomplishment for his country.

Rodchenkov confesses that he developed the three-drug cocktail of banned substances mixed with liquor and distributed it to dozens of Russian athletes. The doctor also shared multiple emails detailing the doping efforts and a spreadsheet he claims was sent by the sports ministry weeks before the event. The spreadsheet contained names of athletes that were part of the doping program. It also detailed the competition of each player as well as detailed instructions on what should be done if the said athlete wins a medal. (Source: The New York Times)

Switching the Urine Samples

The doctor said security was extremely tight at the anti-doping laboratory for the Sochi Olympics, so the Russians devised an ingenious plan months before the event started. The plan started with athletes submitting urine samples months before the game. The samples were considered clean because the athletes were temporarily ordered to stop taking the three-drug cocktail.

Rodchenkov froze the samples to be used for the Sochi Olympics. During the event, the Russians made a small hole in the wall of the lab. By day, the hole was inconspicuous. At night, it would be opened and be used to swap out the urine samples.

Evgeny Kurdyatsev, a Russian official who worked inside the lab, passed the dirty urine samples through the hole leading to an adjacent room where Rodchenkov and several others were waiting with the clean urine samples. It was reported that this was done around midnight when no one else was in the lab.

The dirty samples would then be discarded by a Russian intelligence agent posing as a sewer engineer. Rodchenkov claimed that exchanging the samples was challenging because the bottles were marked and were supposed to be tamper-proof. However, the Russians found a way to make it seem that the bottles weren’t tampered with, even though they illegally opened and exchanged the samples. (Source: The New York Times)

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