Documents from WADA lab that tested Valieva sample reveal incompetence, debunk explanation for delay

“Please clarify when the negative result from Seibersdorf will be reported in ADAMS,” Osquel Barroso wrote in an email to Anton Pohanka, Director of the WADA-accredited doping testing lab at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. WADA is the World Anti-Doping Agency, Barroso is WADA’s Senior Associate Director of Medicine & Science, and “ADAMS” is short for WADA’s “Anti-Doping Administration & Management System.”

“The Seibersdorf negative result is sent for a second opinion,” Pohanka answered Barroso on January 25th, 2022, a full six days after Barroso had sent his email.

“Anton, there is no need for [a] second opinion for negative test results,” Barroso flatly responded.

In other words, the lab director for a WADA-accredited lab didn’t know that negative doping test results do not require additional testing. It is one of many remarkable insights that internal documents from the the WADA-accredited doping testing lab at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm provided. This is the same WADA lab that very belatedly, almost 6 weeks after receiving the sample, reported the positive test results for Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

This extraordinarily long delay in reporting the Valieva positive test result is what caused our website Lacrimonia.Com to investigate this matter.

The records reviewed by Lacrimonia were obtained through public records requests made to the lab, which is a Swedish public agency and thus subject to public records requests under Sweden’s public records law.

The records request timeline shows that the lab repeatedly dragged its feet in providing the records, despite a requirement in that law that such public records be provided promptly (“skyndsamt”).

We also had to go to court to force the lab to hand over certain records, and we prevailed on two out of three counts (see the court decision).

Valieva was favored to win gold in the women’s singles competition, and her positive test result was an international story shook the Winter Olympics. The matter continues to be the subject of litigation in the Court for Arbitration in Sport.

After the positive test result was reported, Reuters reported that RUSADA said the following:

“According to the information sent by the laboratory to RUSADA, the delay in analysis and reporting by the laboratory was caused by another wave of COVID-19 (cases), an increase in illness among laboratory staff and quarantine rules.”

However, COVID cannot be the reason for the delay in results reporting because WADA’s Manager of Laboratory Proficiency Sanjana Kisoona wrote an email about COVID to Pohanka and others on December 23rd, just six days before the lab received the Valieva sample. That email said that “in consideration of the impact of COVID-19 in your respective countries on Laboratory, please do not hesitate to contact us if there are any [COVID] issues related to delays in sample shipment or reporting of results.” [emphasis added].

Pohanka responded to Kisoona’s email 19 days later, showing that he saw the email. Our review of the records obtained shows that the lab never contacted WADA to report any delays in “reporting of results” caused by COVID.

Although Pohanka wrote to Osquel Barroso on January 17th that “COVID is raging in Sweden with several of the staff ill, but fortunately no one is hospitalized so far,” he did not suggest that this would lead to “delays in…reporting of results” in any testing for WADA.

“Unfortunately, I will not be making any comment on this case,” Anton Pohanka told Reuters when asked about RUSADA statement to them. Thus it seems that either Pohanka used RUSADA as a conduit to put out a false cover story about the long delay in results reporting at the Lab he runs, or RUSADA lied to Reuters. We will attempt to get to the truth on that in a later article.

Pohanka was often slow in responding to emails from WADA during the time frame during which the Valieva sample would have been tested. In a December 20 email, Lisa Benaglia in WADA’s Intelligence & Investigations unit requested that Pohanka’s lab help in a matter. WADA’s Intelligence & Investigations unit says on their own web page the following:

“Part of our role is to investigate allegations raised by informants and confidential sources (sometimes referred to as whistleblowers).”

It is worth noting that it took Pohanka, the Director of a WADA-accredited lab, 22 days to respond to this request for information from WADA involving a whistleblower allegation.

Having become the Lab Director in July of 2017, Pohanka was in charge when WADA partially suspended the lab’s accreditation in August 2018 for non-compliance.

On January 13, WADA’s Senior Manager of Laboratory Accreditation Thierry Boghosian sent an email to Pohanka showing that a certain lab service is priced at 1 SEK (approximately $US 0.09), and asked if it is a typo. Pohanka responded 16 minutes later, which shows that he in some cases was able to respond in a timely fashion.

“It is both a typo and not correct,” Pohanka responded to Boghosian. “I will urgently update the ADAMS price list” and “we will charge a wee bit more than 1 swedish [sic] crown…..”

Boghosian responded “Thanks. At that price, you would’ve cornered the market 😀” [the emoji was in Boghosian’s email]

“Making sure the laboratories consistently perform to the highest levels is crucial for the entire anti-doping system”, Boghosian said just 3 months before this email exchange. Yet the joking and relaxed tone that Boghosian accepted from a WADA lab director, and even playing along with, seems at odds with that “crucial” goal.

There has been no accountability for the inexcusable delay in reporting the Valieva results, a delay that raised substantive questions about whether the international “anti-doping” system is functioning properly. Instead of accountability, WADA covered for the lab and instead immediately blamed RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, for the delay in results reporting. In this statement on February 14, 2002, WADA said:

“According to information received by WADA [from whom?], the sample in this case was not flagged by RUSADA as being a priority sample when it was received by the anti-doping laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden. This meant the laboratory did not know to fast-track the analysis of this sample.”

However, the shipping label for the Valieva sample (shown on the left) was marked “MEDICAL EXPRESS” at the top of the label. Although this is a DHL service name, the word “express” does indicate “priority” and at least some urgency.

In addition, the rather heavy 15.5 kilo package was addressed to Pohanka himself. He was also listed on the label as the contact for the package. Did Pohanka personally sign for the package? If not, was he contacted when it was received by the lab?

Regardless of who received it: was the package simply forgotten in a corner of the lab because it arrived during those dark days between Christmas Day and the Swedish “Trettondagen” holiday on January 6th? With Stockholm located just below the 60th parallel, that period is a cold and dark period of little activity. It is also a time when many Swedish residents decamp to warmer latitudes.

As always – Lacrimonia.Com reports and our readers decide. Follow us on Facebook to receive notifications when we publish articles.

Final note: via email, we previewed this article with Pohanka, Boshosian, Barroso and Kisoona and invited them to provide comments for publication. None were received by the time of publication. Calls placed to Pohanka’s office number, as provided by the lab, simply ring out with no ability to leave a message.

We have previously reported on WADA head Witold Banka’s selective disinterest in receiving report of WADA code violations, and the repeated violations of the WADA code by USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart. We will continue to report on problems in the world of so-called “anti-doping efforts” and other matters of international interest.

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