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Discussion: Big :( in Russia

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 11, 2005 5:57 AM # 
Big unhappy doings in Russian O' being reported out today. Perhaps some of our better Russia/former USSR connected APers have heard all about it and can offer some informed commentary.
Jul 11, 2005 10:57 AM # 
alternativet has some details on this, and they've translated it into english.
Jul 11, 2005 7:05 PM # 
ci00me9's synopsis at alternativet appears correct as far as facts go. I have not been aware of the developments and got the update from the Russian-language O-community board. The issue seems to have spilled into a conflict after a ROF Ex. Comm. meeting on 28 June 2005, at which the Committee voted that it would constitute "unacceptable risk" to include the Novikovs (all three) on the team for Japan because they failed to keep the IOF/WADA informed of their whereabouts between 01 October 2004 and 08 February 2005, i.e. their required semi-annual whereabouts report was several (2+ or 4+, depending on who you ask) months late. This does not necessarily constitute an IOF Anti-Doping violation; IOF says that the lack of notice becomes a violation after two written warnings from the IOF, or the national Federation. When asked by ROF to clarify whether a violation had indeed occurred, IOF Secretary General, Barbro Rönnberg, replied that the situation "can very easily be interpreted as an attempt to avoid testing and a violation of the A-D Rules", although from the e-mail it seemed fairly clear that the IOF was not considering sanctions. It appears to me that the Committee was happy to jump on the cause and to interpret the Anti-Doping Rules quite broadly in order to exclude the Novikovs from participating. As far as I can remember, there has been much unhappiness and envy among the rest of the coaches and Federation executives towards the more accomplished coaches, and Yuri S. Novikov, Valentin's and Leonid's coach and father, in particular.

Valentin (31 years of age) has been able to rise to the top of international orienteering despite less access to complex terrain and high-level competitions than athletes who are based in Scandinavia full time. His brother Leonid is 8 years younger and shows great promise. As much as I like and respect Valentin, who I was honored to compete against in M16 and M18, there have been certain unusual, to put it mildly, happenings in the past 3 or so years that attracted quite a bit of interpretation. It is well known that Yuri Novikov's athletes actively modulate their nutritional intake in preparation for important events. Valentin has credited his success in Sweden at WOC 2004 in Västerås (two silvers) in part to careful nutrition planning. However, recent memory also registers his collapse on the way to the start of the qualifying race at the Swiss WOC in 2003, the lost lead in the Västerås Classic Final, and a less known disaster in 2003 blamed on consuming a "wrong sports drink" at an aid station. Neither Novikov has ever had a positive doping test.

One thing seems clear, given Barbro Rönnberg's reply—the (A-team) requirement to keep the IOF/WADA informed of the athlete's whereabouts is taken seriously by the IOF. All on the US A Orienteering Team should carefully remember this responsibility, which comes with the recognition. Thanks to Brian May for volunteering to be responsible to gather the information and pass it on to the anti-doping agencies.
Jul 11, 2005 8:00 PM # 
Thanks for the background on this.
Jul 12, 2005 8:43 AM # 
I have more details than Vlad on this and I don't agree with him that there is reason to blame the Novikovs for this situation.

My posting to O-net yesterday follows:

I think international complaints are the best way to influence on the corrupt Russian orienteering federation (ROF). The big scoundrel in this scandal is by the way not only vice president of the ROF but also a member of the IOF mountainbike-O committee. The first thing to do must be to demand IOF to kick him out, otherwise this organization will lose all its credibility. He and his friends have been terrorizing ordinary Russian orienteers for at least a decade now.

A short summary of the role of this man (Aleksey R. Kuzmin) in this scandal:

1. As the responsible person in ROF, he received the requested whereabouts reports from the Novikov family in October last year (i.e. long before the deadline December 1)
2. However, he did not make sure they where submitted to IOF before February, this year!!! (He tries to defend himself on this matter, saying that the reports were written in Russian and not in English as supposed)
3. He did not send any formal written warnings to the Novikovs (as prescribed in the rules if a report is delayed) in spite of requests from the IOF Secretary General to do so.
4. After this, he put pressure on Valentin Novikov to try to misuse the IOF rules, and "retire" (!) temporary as "the only way to solve the problem".
5. He convinced the executive committee of ROF to exclude all Novikovs from the national team, "because of the risk for punishment from IOF/WADA". To motivate this, he claims that he has received a number of "foggy" answers from WADA on his requests to assess the risk for punishment. In fact, he never had any correspondence with anyone in WADA. He also showed them a letter (which was later attached to the official decision) from the "revision committee" in which he himself had made changes to make the situation look much worse for the Novikovs.
6. He conducts a massive information campaign on the forums/guestbooks of the most read Russian orienteering website where he, under a large amount of different aliases, except his real name (I have checked the IP-addresses), tries to simulate public support for his views in the case.
Jul 12, 2005 12:14 PM # 
Isn't one of the other top Russians becoming Italian, I know through he married an Italian Orienteer, but were there any similar issues with him. Russia I would have thought would have been a key relay team this summer.
Jul 12, 2005 4:07 PM # 
Alexey Kuzmin is not "the" issue, that's the ordinary way business is done in Russian OF. Most of the elected and/or appointed officials would act in exactly the same way. Mr. Kuzmin's only prominence is some command of English, for which he has been appointed to conduct international affairs. Unfortunately the current generation of officials is straight from the Soviet times; in the early to mid-1990s, the flow of orienteers from competitors to event organizers and coaches stopped, as these positions lost the little state support they had. The situation for the future appears quite a bit better, with a new generation coming up. However the people now in positions of responsibility have been vested into those positions over many decades, and most often treat these functions with a grossly exaggerated sense of personal importance, acting in own interests, despite the obvious fact that there is little consequence to their functions in the grand scheme of things, financial or otherwise.

The last large-scale conflict that I recall was in 1999 when the whole Federation decided to not participate in the WOC in Scotland (Novikov, Mamleev, and Ryabkina participated on their own initiative). Mamleev has been unhappy ever since, and looking for ways to improve conditions for his participation in international competitions. I believe he is scheduled to run for Italy in WOC 2005.
Jul 12, 2005 8:35 PM # 
I agree that Kuzmin is not the only problem, but I don't think his actions in this case should be defended just because someone else in the corrupt management hypothetically could have done the same in his situation. He must bear the full responsibility for his own actions.
If he was really appointed to this position thanks to his (relatively poor) knowledge of English, it's even more shameful that he didn't help the Novikovs to translate the forms.

His way of defending his own views and throwing mud at the Novikovs hidden behind an array of different anonymous aliases at, by the way, makes me sick!
Jul 12, 2005 11:01 PM # 
Not defending Kuzmin, just thinking that there's not much that can be done given their Executive Committee vote (all but 1 were against sending the Novikovs to Japan).

The proper course of action for the Novikovs appears to be to communicate with the IOF directly on anti-doping matters. I'm sure Mr. Kuzmin won't be happy about that, but then there will be no questions to the Novikovs from the rest of the world.
Jul 12, 2005 11:14 PM # 
Of course things can be done, by revealing all details of the obvios crime that has been committed by Kuzmin. The Executive Committee can always make another vote, once the correct information has been provided. I don't believe they are all criminals.

The IOF antidoping rules clearly states that the communication SHALL go through the national federation, "WHICH BEARS THE ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY IN PROVIDING WHEREBOUTS INFORMATION AS REQUESTED BY THE IOF"
Jul 13, 2005 7:27 PM # 
Yes, but if the national Federation is clearly dysfunctional or corrupt, a sensible thing to do would be to talk directly to the IOF—it's not that hard in the days of the internet, and Barbro and Piritta (usually) don't bite. It is the IOF after all that requires the athlete whereabouts forms, ostensibly to pass along to doping control officers that either the IOF itself contracts with, or those of WADA. The requirement that the communication go through the national federation is there so that (1) the national federation can implement its own testing, and (2) the national federation can be held responsible if its athletes avoid testing. Clearly (2) wouldn't apply for direct communication.
Jul 13, 2005 8:08 PM # 
You are completely right in this, Vladimir, and I therefore wrote an open letter to the Swedish bosses of IOF several days ago, explaining the details of this scandal and demanding them to exclude Kuzmin from their organization, if they don't want to loose their own credibility.

That the Novikovs has been scared by Kuzmins threats is obvious to me, and I don't think you should blame them (with their limited knowledge of English) for not having contacted the IOF themself.
Moreover, Kuzmin has done everything to draw attention away from IOF by repeating over and over again that the Novikovs are theated by a punishment from WADA (almost not a word about IOF), with which he claims to have been in contact. That was all bullshit!
Jul 14, 2005 3:15 AM # 
Mattias, I happened to personally know “the bandits” – officially called vice presidents of Russian Orienteering Federation. I have to agree with Vladimir that A. Kuzmin is not the biggest evil among them. He is more like a marionette figure translating in English the will of Mr. Elizarov and Mr. Yanin. The reason they do this follows: this group of people have been under some heavy public criticism from Yuriy S. Novikov. Some of it was fare, some exoudurated; some of it was just politically incorrect.
Situation is rather complicated, and I think that it only can be resolved in democratic way, during next election. Trying to dismount the ruling group, as bad as they are, will only bring instability in ROF, significant loss of Government support money; it will affect, not just elite Russian orienteers, but a big mass of ordinary orienteers, mostly kids. I support your position of making situation around Valentin and Leonid public knowledge, applying pressure on this group of people helped before, but I think it is a little to early to start beheading people from ROF. Some of them deserve a lot of respect from orienteers of all ages. Greg Balter.
Jul 14, 2005 4:15 AM # 
And, Mattias, for your information - not to be made public on Moscow site, Zhenia Gavrilov works @ Uniteks - and there a lot of orienteers work in that company thanks to Yuriy Nickonov, the President of ROF & Uniteks, some very good friends of mine - Alexei Vyshkvarko and Michail Lavrenyuk - and trust me, they are on your side, please be careful in your statements, you can insult some real good people who has nothing to do with campaign against Novikovs.
Jul 14, 2005 9:13 PM # 
Thanks Greg for this info, I already got it from other sources, though, and have appologized to Gavrilov.

Moreover I am completely sure that you are right about Elizarov and Yanin being the minds behind this scandal (Kuzmins actions hint on a pretty limited intellectual capacity) - there is however no publicly published evidence for that, whereas there are tons of evidence against Kuzmin being the executor. And why not start the absolutely necessary "regime change" by ousting one of the bandits? That would make it more difficult for the others to remain in their seats.
Aug 3, 2005 1:29 AM # 
According to the Swedish leader for the Russian national team, Anders Martensson, who has close contact with the Novikovs, Valentin will not participate in WOC even if the Russian federation would now change their mind and let him go. The world number one orienteer considers his preparations for the champs completely destroyed, which is easy to imagine after this scandalous exclusion, and does not feel mentally ready to "take a last minute flight to Japan". I think this is really sad for our sport!
Mar 11, 2014 3:42 PM # 
This is fascinating reading, 8.5 yrs later; what came of all this?
Mar 12, 2014 2:50 PM # 
Yanin, Elizarov, and A. Kuzmin, on the one hand, and the Novikovs, on the other, are still where they were 8.5 years ago. A Novikov since won a WOC, but not the one who everyone thought would.

This discussion thread is closed.