Montreal: a discreet "mouse hole"

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MONTREAL:  A discreet “mouse hole”

through a wall, surreptitiously tampered

samples using table salt and night-time

visits by Russian secret service agents

dubbed “the magicians”. The revelations

detailed in a damning 100-page report

released Monday, alleging Russian state-

run doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter

Games and other major sports events,

read like a Cold War thriller.

The probe by Canadian law professor

Richard McLaren for the World Anti-

Doping Agency (WADA) found that the

FSB-the successor to the notorious KGB-

helped “the state-dictated failsafe sys-

tem” carried out under the Moscow

sports ministry and covering 30 sports.

Homing in on the Sochi Games-

President Valdimir Putin’s chance to

show the world that Russia was a sport-

ing great just like old Soviet times-

McLaren’s report states: “The FSB was

intricately entwined in the scheme to

allow Russian athletes to compete while

dirty.” Central to the plan was destroying

the supposedly tamper-proof urine sam-

ples that would have seen a Russian ath-

lete caught doping and swapping them

for clean ones.

The ploy involved a “clean urine bank”

that was full of Russian competitors’

samples and later secretly transported

by the FSB from Moscow to an FSB

building located handily next to the

Sochi Olympic testing laboratory, the

report said. “The bank of clean urine sat

in storage awaiting the swapping pro-

gramme at Sochi when required.” The

report said it had credible evidence from

Moscow’s former anti-doping laboratory

director Grigory Rodchenkov about

what happened next-it was his allega-

tions that sparked the investigation.

Rodchenkov is now in hiding in the

United States and wanted by Russian



According to him, samples provided

by athletes would pass through the

“mouse hole” around midnight inside

the supposedly secure Sochi laboratory

into an adjacent “operations” room out-

side the secure perimeter.

From there an FSB agent disguised as

a sewer engineer who had security clear-

ance to enter the laboratory stepped in.

The agent would dispose of the dirty

urine and replace it with a clean sample

taken from the FSB freezer next door, the

caps and stoppers screwed back into

place, before returning it back through

the hole for testing the next morning-

what the report dubbed a “quaint solu-

tion.” Rodchenkov’s role included manip-

ulating the substituted sample-includ-

ing by using salt-so the ruse would not

come to light. “The Sochi sample swap-

ping methodology was a unique situa-

tion, required because of the presence

of the international community in the

laboratory,” the report said, adding that

forensic examinations confirmed sample

bottles had been tampered with.

“It enabled Russian athletes to com-

pete dirty while enjoying certainty that

their anti-doping samples would be

repor ted clean.” No Russians were

caught doping in Sochi.

The investigation also alleged how, as

part of the wider subterfuge,  thousands

of dirty samples were hastily destroyed

to avoid detection. Rodchenkov also

held an urgent meeting with deputy

sports minister Yury Nagornykh-accused

of being central to the Sochi cover-up-

over athletes whose samples were

“potentially a problem if another accred-

ited laboratory were to analyse them”.

“The upshot of that meeting was that

deputy minister Nagornykh resolved to

call in the ‘magicians’,” the report said.

“That night the FSB visited the laborato-

ry and the next day samples were in the

laboratory without their caps.” — AFP

Mouse hole and ‘magicians’ - how Russia doped

TASHKENT: Oksana Chusovitina is training for a

record-breaking seventh Olympic Games that

will see the Uzbek star become the oldest

woman gymnast to compete at the age of 41.

Chusovitina’s qualification for the Rio Games

extended a staggering career that has seen her

represent three different countries over a quar-

ter of a century in a sport dominated by teen


Chusovitina, whose son is as old as many of

her rivals for Rio medals, said she does not

deprive herself to maintain her muscular 1.50

meter (5 feet) tall, 43 kilogram (95 pound) frame.

“I just train and perform because doing so

brings me pleasure.” Chusovitina told AFP during

a break in recent training at the vast Gymnastics

Palace in Tashkent.

Chusovitina started her career competing for

the Soviet Union. After it collapsed, she went to

the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona for the

Confederation of Independent States, a unified

team of former Soviet states.  There she scooped

gold in the gymnastics team event but she had

to wait another 16 years for an individual

Olympic medal.  That came when she won silver

on the vault in Beijing in 2008. By then

Chusovitina was representing Germany, a coun-

try she moved to in 2002 to get her son Alisher,

born in 1999, successfully treated for leukaemia.

Now she is back representing her Central Asian

homeland of Uzbekistan-a nation of 30 million

people where she is so revered she has figured

on postage stamps.

“It is too early to make any sort of predic-

tions,” Chusovitina added when asked about her

medal hopes.  


Chusovitina admitted that it is sometimes

tough keeping up with the rigors of a sport

where she is often competing against gymnasts

less than half her age.  

“Gymnastics has become much more difficult,

but at the same time much more dramatic and

beautiful,” she says. But it appears that her

longevity is down to constant training and hard

work rather then any special dietary secret. 

A person “can eat everything in moderation,”

she said in Tashkent just ahead of her departure

for a spor ts camp in Germany.  While

Chusovitina might be coy about her achieve-

ments her coach Nikolai Pak is much more forth-

coming as she gears up to break the record for

Olympic appearances by a gymnast. 

“She has raised the bar,” Pak told AFP “Modern

gymnastics is changing rapidly and Oksana is

right up there with it. She doesn’t stand still, and

is always developing herself.” That admiration for

an athlete who has won the World

Championship gold for Uzbekistan on the vaults

runs deep among her younger colleagues as

well.   Several junior athletes training in the

Tashkent Gymnastics Palace cited Chusovitina as

an inspiration.  “She used to coach me some-

times and help me out with some things,” Elena

Rega, an 18-year-old who has already represent-

ed Uzbekistan, told AFP. 

“It is everything about her character, her war-

rior spirit. When she enters the gymnastics hall, it

lifts your mood.” —AFP

Age is no barrier for Olympic 

gymnast warrior Chusovitina

Oksana Chusovitina

HOULGATE: French judokas train during a training session before the 2016 Olympic

Games in Rio, yesterday in Houlgate, northwestern France.  — AFP 

RIO DE JANEIRO: If English is the language

of world commerce, Brazil hasn’t gotten the

memo - only a small fraction of its 200 mil-

lion people have a basic proficienc y.

Fluency is also rare for other languages

such as German, French and even Spanish,

despite Brazil being bordered by seven

Spanish-speaking countries.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of

tourists expected to descend on Rio de

Janeiro for the Olympics in a few weeks

could frequently find themselves in a lin-

guistic muddle. Vanderclei Silva Santos,

who sells caipirinha, Brazil’s national cock-

tail, says he struggles to communicate with

foreign tourists who stop at his stand on

Copacabana Beach, so he uses his fingers

and toes to write prices and shapes in the

sand. Most of the time it works, but trying

and funny moments are common, like the

time a woman made chomping gestures to

ask where she might find fresh corn on the

cob, or the time a man seemed to be

urgently asking to use a “banho” but really

was trying to figure out where to shower.

“Communicating is tough. We move our

hips, we smile, which tourists like. We find a

way,” said Santos, a 39-year-old who hopes

to one day take a basic English course,

something that until recent years generally

was available only for wealthy Brazilians

and is still not widely offered.

Attempting over the last year to bridge

the language gap for the Summer Games,

Rio de Janeiro state, the Olympic

Committee and several companies have

offered in-person and online English cours-

es to several thousand service industry

workers, Olympic volunteers and police -

those most likely to come in contact with

tourists. “Do you know the meaning of ‘I’m

going to kick your butt?’” teacher Rafael

Vianna asked this week to a dozen tourist

police in an advanced course aimed at

preparing them to help English speakers

sort through any issues that come up, from

harassment to robbery. “It’s often used in

sports and can be interpreted in different

ways depending on the context.”


On the blackboard, Vianna wrote and

defined some words that tourists in distress

may use, such as “mace, malice, mayhem

and nuisance.”

Vinicius Lummertz, the president of

Embratur, a government agency that pro-

motes Brazil overseas, said Rio will be

ready. And he argues that any linguistic

struggles will be part of the experience.

“A lack of English is a problem, but try-

ing to communicate with Brazilians who

only speak Portuguese becomes a flavor,”

Lummertz said. “Do you want a world that

is exactly the same everywhere?”

Latin America’s biggest countr y is

roughly the size of the continental United

States, which has tended to insulate its

people. And vast inequalities permeate

every walk of life, including education, and

most Brazilians have never had a chance to

study other languages.

Virginia Garcia, former head of the

British Council in Brazil, said research by the

council a few years ago found that only 5

percent of Brazilians spoke English at a pro-

ficient level.

Garcia said English instruction in public

schools is limited, although several big

events hosted by Brazil in recent years,

including the Pan American Games, the

World Cup and a visit by Pope Francis, have

slowly pushed the country to expand lan-

guage teaching.


“Twenty years ago, only people coming

from the high classes could learn other lan-

guages in Brazil,” Garcia said. “It’s slowly

getting more democratic.”

Antonio Carlos de Moraes Sartini, direc-

tor of the Sao Paulo-based Museum of the

Portuguese Language, said Brazil’s intense

focus on Portuguese dates to 1750, when

the Portugal’s monarchy made teaching

the language mandator y to create a

national identity different from the sur-

rounding Spanish-speaking colonies.

At the time, only about 20 percent of

people in Brazil spoke Portuguese, while

more than 1,000 indigenous languages

prevailed. A few hundred of those lan-

guages are still spoken, mostly in the

Amazonian region, but the vast majority of

indigenous peoples now also speak


“ The language spoken here today

expresses Brazilians’ expansive, affectionate

nature,” said Sartini.

That nature often includes having a

good laugh when it comes to foreign lan-

guages. Joel Santana, a former soccer play-

er and coach, has parlayed his halting

English into a second career in television

advertising. In 2010, while coaching South

Africa’s national team, he gave an interview

in English that was so indecipherable that it

became an internet sensation. Since then,

he has pitched products such as Pepsi and

Head & Shoulders shampoo in commer-

cials, throwing in barely understandable

words in English.

Jens Heftoy, a journalist from Norway

who has visited Brazil several times in the

last decade since marrying a woman from

Rio, said that in his experience even

Brazilians who have a decent level of

English prefer not to speak it unless they

work in the tourism industry.

“ Three blocks from here, you’ll have

problems” in communicating, Heftoy said

while walking on the tourist mecca of

Copacabana Beach. “It works out, but you

have to be patient.” — AP

Visiting Rio for Olympics? 

Get your Portuguese ready

GLASGOW:  If Brendan Rodgers had wondered about

the size of the task that lies in front of him at Celtic then

last week’s 1-0 defeat to Gibraltar part-timers Lincoln

Red Imps would have left him in no doubt.

When the former Liverpool boss was paraded at

Parkhead back in May as the high-profile replacement to

Ronny Deila it was a signal from the board Celtic would

be getting down to serious business again to coincide

with the return of bitter rivals Rangers to the Scottish

top flight. Instead, the “Bhoys” have started their season

in the worst possible of fashions as they suffered a

humiliating defeat against a side that contained just five

full-time professionals alongside a customs officer, a fire-

man, a policeman and a taxi driver.

The shock in Gibraltar, arguably the club’s worst ever

result, came in Rodgers’ first competitive game in

charge. Before the match against the Imps, the self-

declared Celtic supporter spoke of his pride of taking

charge of the former European champions for the first

time in their Champions League second-round qualifier.

However, Lee Casciaro’s second-half goal condemned

Rodgers to the most embarrassing defeat of his career,

despite what he said to the contrary at full-time.

“There is no embarrassment. We understand what we

need to get to for what we want to achieve,” he said. “We

didn’t take our chances, they took their chance.  “It was a

game we dominated and had enough chances to score.

Sometimes it can happen.”

While that may be the case, Rodgers knows his side’s

performance will count for nothing with the directors

who made him the highest-paid manager in Scottish

football history if the Hoops crash out of European com-

petition at the first hurdle.

Outside of the Old Firm fixtures, European perform-

ances will be the yardstick by which Rodgers is judged,

with Champions League qualification defeats against

Malmo, Maribor and Legia Warsaw casting a heavy shad-

ow over predecessor Deila’s two years in charge.

The humbling defeat to the Imps came just 20 days

after Celtic started their pre-season training but the

manager insisted his side had prepared properly and

hadn’t underestimated the minnows.


If not complacency, then the result can maybe be

explained by the fact the Celtic boss has been slow to

stamp his authority on the club, with Rodgers making

just one addition to the imbalanced squad he inherited.

However, he believes the current crop are good enough

to get through in the second leg on Wednesday-but

admitted he will need to make changes if they are to

have any hopes of getting near the Champions League

group stages.  “It’s one that was always the case. We

know where we need to strengthen the squad.

“It’s obviously disappointment straight after when

you lose a game like that. “But no panic. We know the

quality we need to get in to help the side. “In the mean-

time we have enough quality to get through the tie.” Big

things are expected from the man who took Liverpool

to the verge of their first title win in over 20 years.—AFP

LONDON:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of

shock Premier League champions Leicester,

believes sides like Chelsea and Liverpool

who failed to even make the Champions

League will be prepared to kill all opposi-

tion in the forthcoming season.

The 64-year-old Italian added the pres-

sure was not on him but his rivals like old

foe Jose Mourinho at Manchester United

and Antonio Conte at one of his former

clubs Chelsea. Both of them like

Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola have tak-

en on new challenges although Mourinho

and Conte like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool

don’t have Champions League campaigns

to be concerned about.

“Everything’s different now. You imagine

the big teams who didn’t win last season,

who didn’t make the Champions League,”

Ranieri told The Sun.

“They are going crazy now. They want to

kill now-not just us but all the other teams,”

added Ranieri who succeeded in keeping

talismanic striker Jamie Vardy but lost

French midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante at

the weekend to Chelsea.

Ranieri, who suggested his side should

be 6000/1 to defend their crown as

opposed to the 5000/1 they were for last

season’s title, said the managerial talent, all

of it foreign, coming into the Premier

League was fantastic but only one could

emerge a winner.

“Antonio Conte is fantastic, Jose

(Mourinho), everybody knows Jose,” said

Ranieri, who once was sneeringly dismissed

by Mourinho as having only won one small

trophy. “Pep Guardiola is an amazing per-

son and a good manager.

“I’m laughing because at the end of the

season only one will will win and  the pres-

sure is not on me, it’s on them!” Ranieri

admitted the odds were loaded in favour of

one of the big beasts of the Premier Legue

regaining the title given the disparity in

transfer funds they had.

The Italian has been pretty busy in the

transfer market beating the club record

outlay twice in a week to secure former

France Under-21 midfielder Nampalys

Mendy for £13million, and then Nigerian

forward Ahmed Musa for 16.6 million ($22

million, 20 million euros). “The big clubs are

spending a lot of money and for this reason

they must win,” said Ranieri. “Leicester City?

People are just curious. “What will happen

with Leicester next season? Will it be a

repeat? “I say to them we can repeat the

level of performance but not to win. To win

again is a dream.” — AFP

Rodgers faces up to

task of turning

‘Bhoys’ into men

FLORENCE: Runners react after competing in Florence yesterday, during the first

World Trisome Games, dedicated exclusively to athletes with Down syndrome. The

World Trisome Games runs for the first time in Florence from July 15 to 22, featuring

athletes from 35 nations that compete in events such as swimming, synchronized

swimming, athletics, tennis, table tennis, judo and gymnastic sports. — AFP

Last season’s failures prepared 

to kill to win title: Ranieri

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