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Russian anti-doping agency's chief may sue German journalist over business defamation

March 09, 20:12 UTC+3
According to Anna Antseliovich, at first she wants law specialists to closely study all materials and assess judicial prospects of a possible lawsuit
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© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS Archive

MOSCOW, March 9. /TASS/. Acting Director General of Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Anna Antseliovich told TASS she is considering filing a business defamation lawsuit against German journalist Hajo Seppelt, who, in his films on doping in Russian track and field athletics, keeps accusing it without grounds of involvement in violations in the anti-doping sphere.

"I consider filing a lawsuit against Seppelt on protection of my reputation," Antseliovich said.

"But at first I want specialists in that sphere of law to closely study all available materials and assess judicial prospects of a possible lawsuit. So I can’t say now exactly yet that the lawsuit will be filed," she said.

German television channel ARD reporter Seppelt, in his third documentary Doping Top Secret: Russia’s Red Herrings, which was shown in the early hours of Monday, doubted that Russia had undertaken recently any major steps to fight doping use. He presented data, which in his view prove that Russian athletics had not launched fully the process of self-purification.

The film’s author also claimed Antseliovich notified athletes in advance when samples will be taken. Seppelt also claimed he has an audio recording of the current RUSADA chief’s conversation with a track and field athlete. Antseliovich’s voice in the film is not heard - the text is read by a female voice in German.

"Seppelt has not grounds to accuse RUSADA," Antseliovich said. "All the more so as he already had information that the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] commission long ago got comprehensive answers to all questions posed in a regular documentary. But he keeps discussing all that again, so we are considering the possibility to sue that journalist."

She said the ARD journalist in his latest film cited information on RUSADA that he already familiarized viewers with in his first two films.

The information was attentively studied by the WADA Independent Commission back in the summer of 2015. Antseliovich said RUSADA had a letter from WADA that said the organization has no complaints about their Russian colleagues on that issue.

Antseliovich said: "We welcome media participation in the fight against doping, and journalistic investigations may also be very useful in that case."

"We are always very attentive about all information appearing in the press. But we consider the latest investigation by Seppelt in the part regarding RUSADA nonobjective," she said.

Antseliovich said Seppelt uses in his film documents testifying to her working contacts with runner Yulia Stepanova, the future heroine of the films, with respect to her return to sports after serving the punishment term for violation of anti-doping regulations.

"I am also amazed at the fact that the German journalist uses in his new film facts that have already been checked by WADA," she said. "And if no sanctions were imposed on us after the first and second films, it means the facts did not prove to be true."

ARD documentaries

In December 2014, ARD aired Seppelt’s first documentary on alleged doping abuse in Russian sports. The documentary, entitled Geheimsache Doping (Secret Doping Case), claimed that Russian athletes systematically took banned substances on instructions from their coaches.

Last August, ARD and Seppelt came up releasing another documentary "Doping - Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics." The film claimed that ARD and British newspaper The Sunday Times had obtained a leaked database belonging to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which contained more than 12,000 blood tests from around 5,000 athletes in the years 2001 to 2012.

ARD further alleged that a third of medals (146, including 55 golds) in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests but none of these athletes have been stripped of their medals.

The series of German documentaries prompted a reaction from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which ruled early last year to set up an independent body to investigate the issue.

WADA’s Independent Commission handled the investigation and subsequently published last November results of its probe into the activities of the ARAF (the All-Russia Athletics Federation), the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, the RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) and the Russian Sports Ministry.

The commission accused certain athletes and sports officials of doping abuse and involvement in other activities related to violations of international regulations on performance enhancing substances.

RUSADA and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory subsequently suspended their activities, while WADA’s Board of Founders approved the decision of the agency’s Independent Committee that RUSADA did not comply with the Code of the international anti-doping organization.

The IAAF said at its Council meeting in November 2015 that a report prepared by the ARAF on the struggle against doping was unsatisfactory and decided by a majority of votes to suspend Russia’s membership in the international athletics association.

International and Russian sports experts had repeatedly voiced their assumptions that it was highly possible for Russian national athletics teams to be suspended from the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil this year.

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