Sunday, 27 May 2018

First Minister and Equal Pay

Here's another good example of MSPs speaking out on the topical issues of the day - in this case over an allegation of 'bullying and harassment' at Marine Scotland which is a directorate of the Scottish Government.

Now wouldn't it be great if a Glasgow MSP used First Minister's Questions to highlight some of big issues that have come to the fore during the long fight for equal pay in Scotland's largest council:
  • Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme which was condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, in August 2017
  • The WPBR's controversial 37 hour 'rule' which discriminates against the City Council's largely female workforce
  • The role played by senior council officials during the introduction of the WPBR - did they act in 'good faith' as the council chief executive claims?
So it's good to see MSPs raising important issues on behalf of local constituents in the Scottish Parliament - that's what it's for after all - and in the weeks ahead I hope we will witness Glasgow's MSPs doing their bit to bring the city's long-running equal pay dispute to an end.

Nicola Sturgeon 'horrified' by gagged worker photo

Media caption - Nicola Sturgeon said a review of the 'gagged worker' case would be undertaken by the Scottish government's permanent secretary

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs she is "absolutely horrified" by a photo of a woman allegedly taped to a chair and gagged by male colleagues.

Ms Sturgeon said she had asked a top civil servant to conduct a full review into the circumstances and report to her personally as soon as possible.

The BBC obtained the photo of DeeAnn Fitzpatrick being restrained.

She claims it took place amid years of bullying and harassment at Marine Scotland's Scrabster office.

Ms Fitzpatrick, a Canadian national, said the incident happened in 2010 as a result of her blowing the whistle on a threatening and misogynistic culture at the Scottish government department's base on the far north Caithness coast.

The fisheries officer has taken her case to an employment tribunal.

In evidence to the ongoing tribunal, she claimed that one of the men involved, fellow fisheries officer Reid Anderson, told her: "This is what you get when you speak out against the boys."

Image caption - Highlands MSP Rhoda Grant asked the first minister to intervene

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, who has been supporting 49-year-old Ms Fitzpatrick, asked Ms Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions whether she would now intervene in the case.

The first minister said she was limited in what she could say because of an ongoing tribunal and internal investigation.

However, she said: "I can tell the chamber I have this morning asked the permanent secretary of the Scottish government to conduct a full review of the circumstances of this case, a review of the actions already taken and a review of the actions proposed to be taken and to report to me personally on her conclusions as soon as possible."

The Scottish government is responsible for Marine Scotland, which is the watchdog for the fisheries and aquaculture industries in Scotland.

Image caption - First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a full review

Ms Sturgeon said: "Bullying, abuse, sexism, racism, have no place in any work place and they will not be tolerated in the Scottish government or its agencies."

She added: "I an absolutely horrified at the photo.

"I am also horrified at the circumstances in which it is alleged to have been taken."

Ms Fitzpatrick has been off work sick since November 2016.

Image copyright - SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT Image caption - Top civil servant Leslie Evans will conduct the review

She claims that over a period of almost 10 years she was subjected to threatening and misogynistic behaviour.

The BBC has seen emails showing Ms Fitzpatrick tried to raise the alleged restraint attack with one of her managers soon after it happened but it appears to have not been taken seriously.

The manager said he would have "a word" with the men involved - Reid Anderson and Jody Paske.

He added: "I am sure they meant no harm and that was the boys just being boys."

Image caption- DeeAnn works as a fisheries officer checking the operation of the industry

Mr Anderson, who the BBC understands remains employed by Marine Scotland and has recently been promoted, did not respond to the allegations, although civil servants are usually unable to comment without government approval.

Mr Paske, who no longer works at Marine Scotland, told the BBC that the allegations were "lies".

He said: "These are false allegations. I can't remember the event you mention, but if it did happen, it would have been office banter. Just a craic. Certainly nothing to do with abuse."

Glasgow MSPs and MPs (24/05/18)

I think it's perfectly fair to point out that Glasgow's MSPs have been remarkably quiet during the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

I said as much yesterday on Twitter, but some SNP supporters are remarkably sensitive to criticism, even friendly criticism, as you can see in the following exchange of Tweets.

Humza Yousaf Retweeted Jamie Maxwell
This week Tory Cllr has been exposed as former Security Advisor & active member of the BNP. He joins an increasing list of Tory bigots who are elected members. 

Humza Yousaf added,
Where is @RuthDavidsonMSP - no comment & no apology for letting multiple racists through Tory vetting #WheresRuth?

Jamie Maxwell
This is the 'moderate', 'centrist', 'detoxified' party Ruth Davidson runs.

Mark Irvine
Good point - but where is Humza on the big ‘kitchen sink’ issue regarding the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council?

Is that the fight that liebou r took to court spending 12 million of tax payers money,to fight against equal rights? Snp took over last may, and are awarding it! Is that what you are on about?

Mark Irvine
No, it’s dealing with the council in the here and now - good and bad - instead of pretending that because the City Council is SNP-led that everything is wonderful. Why don’t you listen to people instead of shouting silly political slogans?

Peter Shand
So the SNP actually doing something about it is a political slogan?

Mark Irvine
Not at all - the SNP Deserve credit where it’s due and I’ve certainly given them that - but no political party deserves people to behave line uncritical cheerleaders. Glasgow’s MSPs, for example, have been as quiet as church mice over the past few years while the battle has raged

The reality is that the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is far from over, despite the progress we made yesterday, and if you ask me there is a big role for MSPs as well as other politicians to play because the City Councillors does not have the resource( (borrowing powers, for example) to get out of this mess on its own. 


First Minister and Equal Pay (23/05/18)

Can anyone seriously believe that Scottish Ministers are unable to speak out and be critical Glasgow City Council's discriminatory, 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme - when they are perfectly OK with challenging Marks & Spencer's branding policy?

Here's a great story from The Scotsman which confirms the Scottish Government became directly involved in a row over the branding of Scotch whisky.  

Yet when equal pay claimants write to the First Minister about the long-running dispute in Glasgow, a civil servant always answers with the same message:

"Councils are independent of the Scottish Government......yadda, yada yada" (see post below dated 30 April 2018).

So, of course, Scottish Ministers can speak their mind which is even more true when they are speaking in their capacity as local Glasgow MSPs.

In the weeks ahead I think it would be great to hear what both Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Southside) and Humza Yousaf (Glasgow Pollok) have to say about:
  • Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme
  • The WPBR's controversial 37 hour 'rule' which discriminates against female jobs
  • The need for 'openness and transparency' over the role played by senior council officials during the introduction of the WPBR

Scottish Government challenged Marks & Spencer’s British branding for whisky 

By TOM PETERKIN - The Scotsman

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity ''Fergus Ewing. Picture: TSPL 

The Scottish Government has contacted Marks&Spencer to ask why Scottish food and drink had been branded as being from Great Britain rather than Scotland, it has emerged. 

Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing was briefed on the interaction between a civil servant and the retailer after the M&S website suggested the country of origin for whisky and Scottish gin was Great Britain. 

Documents released to the Scottish Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation reveal the government took the step when a row erupted in November last year. Last night the Scottish Conservatives said the Scottish Government would rather “berate” retailers for “daring to refer to the UK” than creating jobs and growing the economy. 

The row erupted when a reader contacted independence-supporting newspaper The National to complain about M&S’s website and asked why Scotland “only merits a listing under Great Britain”. 

He also pointed out that whisky was not referred to as “British whisky”. The reader was reportedly told by M&S that customers were happy with how whisky was categorised.

The FoI documents showed that a Scottish Government official contacted the company on 1 November last year and asked to speak on the phone to get “some info on press reports circulating around”. 

The following day, M&S replied, confirming that a telephone conversation had taken place. The company said the website listing was an “unfortunate mistake” which had been rectified. 

The civil servant went back to M&S asking if it intended to “send any tweets (or something) to clarify the situation”. 

The documents then showed that Mr Ewing was updated on the official’s dealings with M&S at a briefing in January this year. Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused the Scottish Government of wasting public resources on the controversy. 

He said: “There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t know whisky is Scottish. 

“But for the SNP to actively pressure a leading retailer in this way is petty and, frankly, a waste of public resources. 

“It shows just how parochial the SNP government is, that it would sooner berate businesses for daring to refer to the UK, than actually help them create jobs and grow the economy. Instead of obsessing about Saltires and pandering to the extreme elements of the Yes movement, the SNP government should be getting on with representing the whole country.”

 A Scottish Government spokesman said: 

“We appreciate the commitment that M&S and many other major retailers make to Scottish high quality food and drink. 

“These documents show we raised concerns with the company in a constructive manner. “Scotland’s food and drink sector is a huge international success story and it’s vital it’s promoted appropriately.”

First Minister and Equal Pay (30/04/18)

No person in their right mind would expect Nicola Sturgeon to set aside her day job to become a 'rat catcher', but I was intrigued by this article in The Times the other day about a plague of pests which has infested parts of the First Minister's Glasgow Southside constituency.

Because when people write to the First Minister about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council, her spokesperson replies like a character out of Yes Minister by saying:

 "Councils are independent of the Scottish Government......yadda, yada yada" (see post below dated 24 April 2018).

But when it comes to an infestation of rats, mice and cockroaches in Govanhill the First Minister is 'closely engaged with the issues according to the following comment in The Times:

"A spokesman for the first minister said: "Govanhill, like many areas, faces specific challenges, and it is important that all sections of the community are included and involved in addressing those challenges. The first minister is closely engaged with issues in the area her constituency office is situated in the heart of Govanhill."

Now I don't know of any Glasgow MSP (or MP for that matter) who is closely engaged in the issues regarding equal pay - I send them information all the time via social media and email, but seldom do I get a response or a Like, Share or Retweet.

And there is a huge amount for MSPs and MPs to engage with by speaking out on a wide range of issues affecting their local constituents including:
  1. The City Council's discredited WPBR pay scheme which has been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session
  2. The WPBR's 37 hour 'rule' which was designed to disadvantage the City Council's largely female workforce
  3. The creation of Glasgow's ALEOs including Cordia which has treated thousands of Home Carers and other staff as second class citizens for years 
  4. The less favourable treatment women workers in GCC receive in relation to overtime working and holiday pay
  5. The case for a new Job Evaluation scheme (to replace the WPBR) which is open, transparent and commands the support of the workforce
  6. The need for openness and transparency over the introduction of the WPBR and the role played by the City Council's senior officials
So when equal pay claimants say they are being given the 'run around' by Glasgow City Council on these issues, I would expect local politicians to listen, get closely engaged and speak up on behalf of their constituents.

Which is presumably what's happening over the rats, mice and cockroaches in Govanhill.

Pests plague residents of Sturgeon’s constituency

By Marc Horne - The Times
Residents of Govanhill, one of Glasgow’s most impoverished areas, are affected by infestations - TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER JAMES GLOSSOP

The full extent of infestations of rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs affecting residents in the first minister's constituency has been revealed.

Glasgow city council figures have outlined the scale of the problem in Govanhill, home to many migrants and refugees. The district, which covers one square mile and has a population of 14,000, accounts for almost all insectrelated callouts to city council pest controllers.

Scotland's largest local authority spends more than £175,000 a year on pest control. However, efforts to contain the problem are being undermined by rogue landlords letting squalid, unhygienic properties and residents who are not washing the affected bedding and clothing at high enough temperatures to kill bedbugs.

The report throws further light on conditions in the area where specialist officers from the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit are conducting an inquiry, prompted by a Times report which revealed vulnerable children were being sold for abuse in the district.

Since 2009 almost 7,000 incidents involving bug contamination have been dealt with in the area, which is part of Glasgow Southside and is represented by Nicola Sturgeon. A further 3,000 cases featuring rats and mice have been recorded since 2014.

Paul McGrath, the report's author, writes: "From July 2008 to date, in excess of 6,700 bedbug and cockroach complaints have been received, involving more than 1,500 properties. Govanhill accounts for over 95 per cent of bed bug and cockroach complaints in the city. There are a number of factors pertinent to Govanhill which contribute to the current situation, aiding the spread of infestations. These include property disrepair, unhygienic properties, frequent resident moves, overcrowding and poor co-operation."

The document notes that council officers, accompanied by interpreters, regularly visit properties in the area to "encourage behavioural changes".

Mr McGrath adds: "Perhaps the largest problem faced in relation to bedbug treatments has been the fact that residents rarely fully prepare flats for sprays or wash clothing at 60C after treatment, which is essential to kill all life-cycle stages of the bedbug."

Cockroach callouts have fallen but the numbers involving mice climbed from 90 in 2014 to 724 last year and 303 rat incidents were also recorded.

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour's health spokesman, called on Ms Sturgeon to take action. He said: "No one should have to live with pest or bug infestation in 2018 and it is time the first minister, whose constituency this is, and all the relevant authorities worked together to get this issue sorted out.

"Condemning people to live in conditions like this is simply intolerable and cannot go on."

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow, added: "The first minister prides herself on being a progressive politician constantly talking about the kind of place she wants Scotland to be. Yet in her own back yard appalling poverty is allowed to unfold." Many of those living in overcrowded and substandard rented accommodation are members of Govanhill's 4,000-strong Roma community.

Marion Nisbet of Crosshill and Govanhill community council said: "It's outrageous in the 21st century we have got children in Govanhill that are scared to get up and go to the toilet at night because the place is riddled with mice, cockroaches and the rest of it."

A city council spokesman said: "As a direct consequence of our pest control work in Govanhill the number of related calls has dropped significantly in the past four years.

"To get fully on top of this issue we ask for further co-operation from landlords and residents."

A spokesman for the first minister said: "Govanhill, like many areas, faces specific challenges, and it is important that all sections of the community are included and involved in addressing those challenges. The first minister is closely engaged with issues in the area her constituency office is situated in the heart of Govanhill."

First Minister and Equal Pay (24/04/18)

I am a fan of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, especially after her speech on equal pay at last year's SNP conference in Glasgow. 

Equal pay claimants have been writing to the First Minister recently to express their concern about the painfully slow progress in settlement negotiations with the City Council and are receiving a standard response like the one below.  

Dear M

Thank you for your email of 8 March to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, regarding the settlement of outstanding equal pay claims by the City of Glasgow Council. I have been asked to reply.

Councils are independent of the Scottish Government and are responsible for meeting their legal obligations to their employees, including those on equal pay. Ministers therefore cannot force councils to settle equal pay claims. However, Ministers have repeatedly made clear that delays by councils in settling equal pay claims are completely unacceptable.

Following the resolution of outstanding legal action last year we understand the council has been meeting Trade Unions to negotiate a settlement. Whilst the Scottish Government cannot intervene directly the First Minister said at the SNP conference on 10 October that equal pay will be delivered for women council workers in Glasgow. We hope the Council and Trade Unions will reach agreement and resolve all outstanding claims soon.

I hope this reply is helpful. 

Yours sincerely

Anthony Romain
Local Government Division and Analytical Services Division

Now this strikes me as 'Yes Minister' response because the civil servant who wrote this letter doesn't seem to know that Action 4 Equality Scotland, GMB and Unison are all involved in the settlement negotiations with Glasgow City Council.

A point of detail, perhaps, but civil servants are supposed to be very strong on detail, so who knows what's going on.

In any event, the real issue is nonsensical line that "Councils are independent of the Scottish Government......yadda, yada yada".

Because the point is not that people expect the First Minister, or any other politician, to storm the City Chambers and seize the levers of power.

Instead the point is that the First Minister and other Glasgow politicians are perfectly free to speak their mind and speak up on behalf of their local constituents - about the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme or its blatantly discriminatory 37 hour 'rule', for example.  

Now Glasgow's politicians comment publicly on all kinds of things, as they should, on a daily basis and the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is no different, especially as this struggle is taking place in their own backyard.

Yet they seem strangely reluctant to say a great deal even though blatant examples of pay discrimination are occurring every day right under their own noses.

So over the next few weeks (in the run up to 22 May) we should aim to bring out the 'Wild Bunch' side of their personalities because for far too long they've been the 'Quiet Bunch', sitting on the sidelines as spectators. 


First Minister and Equal Pay (21/04/18)

Here's an excellent and heartfelt letter which a long-serving Home Carer has written to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow.

Dear Nicola.

As a woman working in a mainly dominated male environment and getting to the top slot in your chosen profession, 
I find it so frustrating to see the Scottish Parliament is allowing a long drawn out equal pay claim from GCC.

After having seen the salaries these officials are handing out to each other, what is the SNP going to do about a clear abuse of power in the biggest council in Scotland.

I have been a SNP voter since Margo Mcdonald won Govan in the 60s.

What powers if any, do the elected counsellors have in running GCC.

Having looked at the shambles the officials have created since 2005, if they were employed in the private sector they would have all been sacked for causing their company all the expense that was just disgraceful management in their part.

These officials who are giving themselves these massive pay rises plus pension increases are using the council as their own personal bank.

I have to wonder are there any grounds for the fraud squad to have a look at what they have been up to for years.

I would like to think that as the first minister you could do something to help out all these ordinary working women who are at an age where some of them have actually died awaiting a pay out from these council Oligarths.

So please please help us Nicola we need you.



Existing Cordia Worker For 22yrs

Now I can't say that I see any grounds for the 'fraud squad' to intervene, but I do take G's well made point that if this had happened in the private sector some of the people involved in Glasgow's decade long equal pay scandal would have paid a heavy price by now.

So I hope G's letter will inspire others to contact their local councillors, MSPs and MPs in the run up to the next settlement meeting with the City Council on 22 May 2018.

Believe me politicians do take these kind of letters seriously and the more people who take the time and trouble to state their case honestly and sincerely - the better it will be for all concerned.

One suggestion I would make is that a group of equal pay claimants from Nicola Sturgeon's local constituency (Glasgow Southside) should get together and ask Nicola for a meeting as the local MSP.

I don't expect Nicola Sturgeon or any other Glasgow politician to barge in somewhere they don't belong.

But Glasgow's politicians are entitled to speak out on important issues on behalf of their local constituents including: 
  1. Glasgow City Council's discredited WPBR  pay scheme which Scotland's highest civl court, the Court of Session, has condemned as 'unfit for purpose'
  2. The WPBR's bogus 37 hour 'rule' which was deliberately designed to disadvantage female dominated jobs in Cordia and elsewhere within the Council
  3. The nonsense of senior officials refusing to disclose vital information on the WPBR because this might cost Scotland's largest council more than £600. 
So let's hope that Nicola and other Glasgow politicians come off the fence, find their voice and start to speak up on behalf of local constituents who have been treated as second class citizens for years.

Putin's Russia

The BBC reports that a Joint Investigating Team (JIT) representing the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine has concluded that Russia was responsible for the murder of 298 innocent people when Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

At the time President Putin denied all responsibility and no doubt will continue to doing so even though there is a clear pattern of Russia's culpability on the world stage:
  • The murder of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive Polonium in 2006
  • Team Russia's systematic cheating in the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
  • Large-scale, organised Russian interference in America's presidential election in 2016
  • The attempted assassination of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia on UK soil in 2018 with a military grade nerve agent 
No wonder Russia is widely regarded as a rogue state these days, even if Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are both badly out of step with public opinion.

MH17 missile owned by Russian brigade, investigators say

Media caption - Investigators said they had evidence of the route taken by a Russian missile convoy

The missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 belonged to a Russian brigade, international investigators say.

For the first time, the Dutch-led team said the missile had come from a unit based in western Russia.

All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in mid-air flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

It was hit by a missile fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. Russia says none of its weapons was used.

But on Thursday Wilbert Paulissen, a Dutch official from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), told reporters: "All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces."

He restated the JIT's conclusion that the plane had been destroyed by a Russian-made Buk missile, adding that it had been supplied by the country's 53rd anti-aircraft brigade in Kursk.

At a news conference in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the investigators also showed social media pictures which they said traced the route the missile convoy had taken to reach eastern Ukraine.

What happened to MH17?

The incident occurred at the height of the conflict between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

The plane left Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on 17 July 2014 and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on the following day.

Malaysia plane crash: What we know
MH17: Our special report
Who were the victims?

The plane lost contact with air traffic control about 50km (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Media captionIn 2015, the Dutch Safety Board released an animated video showing the flight path of the plane

It crashed in the Donetsk area, in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Footage was later released by the Ukrainian government suggesting that a Buk missile had been brought in from Russia on the day of the crash, and then taken back across the border the next day. 

What has been said about the incident?

In October 2015 the Dutch Safety Board concluded that the plane had indeed been hit by a Buk missile.

How does a Buk missile system work?

In September 2016, the JIT - which includes officials from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine - reached a similar conclusion in a preliminary report.

It said it had "irrefutable evidence" that the missile had been brought in from Russian territory and fired from a field controlled by pro-Russian fighters.

The investigators simulated various trajectories of the warhead. They showed it had exploded metres above the aeroplane's nose, showering the aircraft with fragments.

On Thursday Russia restated its position that none of its forces had been involved. "Not a single anti-aircraft missile system from the Russian Federation has ever crossed the Russia-Ukraine border," the defence ministry in Moscow said.

Meanwhile Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised in a Facebook post (in Ukrainian) that he would "spare no effort to ensure that the actions of the Russian Federation as a state which supports terrorism get an appropriate assessment" in the International Court of Justice.

Putin's Russia and 'Disinformation' (07/04/18)

Image result for nothing to see here,move along + images

While Russia continues to pour out disinformation about the chemical weapon attack in Salisbury, here's how the Kremlin responded to the independent investigation into the biggest doping scandal in world sport - there's ever been.

If you ask me, Jeremy Corbyn supporters and their fellow conspiracy theorists are being had - big time!


Putin's Russia (15/12/18)

Image result for nothing to see here,move along + images

"Nothing to see here, move along", seems to be the response of Putin's Russian into the biggest doping scandal there's ever been.

The independent report was carried out at the request of WADA (World Anti Doping Agency)   and exposes cheating on an industrial scale - not just on the part of individual athletes and rouge coaches, but at the highest levels of the Russian state.

Read the following report from the BBC which includes a link to McLaren's findings in relation to the London Olympics in 2012 and further Olympic events in 2013 and 2014.

Doping is the course of modern sport, from the Olympic Games to professional cycling, yet instead of being part of the solution the Russian Government under President Putin appears to be a huge part of the problem.

Russian doping: McLaren report says more than 1,000 athletes implicated

BBC Sport
The report's author, Richard McLaren (centre), said doping took place on 'an unprecedented scale'

More than 1,000 Russians - including Olympic medallists - benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015, a report claims.

At least 30 sports, including football, covered up samples, the report says.

"It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy," said the report's author, Richard McLaren.

Lawyer McLaren said London 2012 was "corrupted on an unprecedented scale".

The report also implicates medallists at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

According to the report, salt and coffee were used to manipulate Russian samples.

The report added the system was refined over the course of the 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds and Winter Olympics to protect likely Russian medal winners.

Russia doping - How we got here
Life on the run for Russian whistleblower

Russia won 72 medals at the London Games, 21 of which were gold, and 33 medals at Sochi, 13 of which were gold.

McLaren's second report added depth and supporting evidence to the initial findings published in July - that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme.

That first report was met with denials from Russia and calls for more proof from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Writing in his latest report, McLaren says: "The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play."

He said international sports competitions had been "unknowingly hijacked by the Russians" and sports fans have been "deceived" for years.

"It is time that stops," he added.

In a statement, Russia's sports ministry said it would examine the report but insisted on "the absence of a state programme of support for doping sport". It said it would "continue to fight doping from a position of zero tolerance".

Russian MP Dmitry Svishchev, who is also the head of Russia's Curling Federation, was quoted by Ria Novosti news agency as saying: "This is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you'll get accused of every single sin."

When asked for a reaction to those comments, McLaren said: "I would say read the report. Its findings are not challengeable. He is reacting in a vacuum because he has not read the report."

The new report also found:
  • At the Sochi Games, two Russian female ice hockey players had male urine samples.
  • A total of 15 Russian medal winners at London 2012 were implicated [10 medals have since been taken away].
  • The samples of 12 medal-winning athletes at Sochi 2014 had evidence of tampering.
  • Six winners of 21 Paralympic medals at Sochi had their samples tampered with.
  • Emails were found asking for instructions from the Russian Ministry of Sport on what to do with a positive sample - save or quarantine?
  • Spreadsheets were found containing lists of athletes whose samples had been saved.
  • A clean urine bank was kept in Moscow.
  • A cocktail of drugs - known as the "Duchess" - with a very short detection window was developed to assist athletes in evading doping.
  • Salt and instant coffee granules were added to clean urine samples to match the appearance of the positive samples.
  • Three samples at Sochi had salt readings that were physiologically impossible.
Investigators have published a searchable database of all the non-confidential evidence they have gathered here.

The full report can be read here.

How urine sample swapping worked

The first McLaren report explained how disappearing positive drug tests were secreted through "mouse holes" drilled by spies. 

That was based on information received from Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, a director of the anti-doping laboratory at Sochi 2014.

He had said the Russian secret service developed ways of opening sample bottles and replacing their contents without intervention being detected. 

He had said the Russian secret service developed ways of opening sample bottles and replacing their contents without intervention being detected. The new report claims to have compiled clear details on exactly how the sample bottles in Sochi were tampered with.

The new report claims to have compiled clear details on exactly how the sample bottles in Sochi were tampered with.

Investigators used a tool which matched the description of one used by the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service), which leaves tiny marks and scratches when the inside of a cap is opened.
An expert was given 13 bottles, one of which had not been tampered with, which he immediately spotted. 
In cases of alleged sample swapping, investigators found there were scratches and marks on the inside of the cap, along with DNA inconsistencies.

Analysis - BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Once again the gory details of Russian state-sponsored cheating have been laid bare by Professor Richard McLaren.

The difference now is those claims have been backed up with concrete evidence.

Some of the details really do defy belief, and the fact the Russian government is so strongly implicated will inevitably lead to calls for Russian athletes to be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics, and perhaps even for the 2018 football World Cup to be taken away from the country.

Reaction - 'hugely significant'

The IOC said the report showed "there was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general".

It said it would re-analyse all 254 urine samples collected from Russian athletes at Sochi 2014.

UK Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead said the report was "hugely significant for sport and those who fight to keep it clean".

She added: "Everyone engaged in sport needs to ensure that the right processes, sanctions and safeguards are in place to protect everyone's right to clean, fair and honest sport."

She also called for more funding to support investigations.

Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said the Russian Olympic Committee should be suspended, and no sporting events should be held in the country until "all the individuals who participated in the corruption are held accountable".

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) described the report's findings as "unprecedented and astonishing", adding: "They strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport."

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the body that governs world athletics, said: "It is time that this manipulation stops." It said it will take further action once it is able to examine the latest report.

British marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said Russia had committed a "huge fraud". She added: "We need to know this cannot happen ever again."

Katherine Grainger, Britain's most decorated female Olympian, told BBC Radio 5 live: "This is a reminder that, along with all those high points in sport, there is a very dark side. It's depressing and it's slightly soul-destroying that it's on this scale."

Paralympic table tennis champion Will Bayley said: "I do have compassion for the athletes. Because if they were forced into it, and they are never going to be able to compete in the sport that they love, then that's really sad."

UK sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "The sheer scale of what has been uncovered underlines just how much more needs to be done.

"We will continue to assist on this front, including in Russia, where UK Anti-Doping is assisting Wada by managing a testing programme that we hope will lead to Russia becoming compliant with the Wada."

What is the reaction in Russia?

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told state news agency R-Sport the report contains "nothing new".

He said Russian athletes "should train calmly" for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Igor Lebedev, deputy speaker of the Russian parliament and a member of the executive committee of the Russian Football Federation, said: "This is yet another torrent of lies, disinformation, rumours and fables."

Natalia Gart, president of the Russian Luge Federation, said: "Where are the facts? You can say this is nothing but rubbish... I am convinced that all of our athletes are clean and the silver medals that we won at Sochi are well deserved."
What is Russia doing about doping?

The Russian Investigations Committee - the country's main anti-corruption body - continues to investigate criminal cases that have been launched.

The committee says 60 athletes have so far been questioned.

Senior officials from Russia's sports ministry, its anti-doping agency and the Russian Athletics Federation are also said to have been questioned.

On Wednesday, Russia's anti-doping agency (Rusada) appointed former double Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva to chair its new board.

The move was questioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), which said Rusada broke an agreement it would be consulted before any appointment was made.

Isinbayeva, 34, was strongly critical of Wada's recommendation that all Russian athletes be banned from Rio 2016.

McLaren was asked whether Russians athletes could be trusted in the future.

He said: "I think the answer to that is yes but they need to reform themselves. I've spoken with many Russian officials since July and they are putting together a very comprehensive programme which, if implemented properly, will make a major difference."
What could happen next?

Wada says it will now pass evidence on Russian athletes' doping to the relevant international sporting federations and governing bodies.

In a news conference on Thursday, IOC president Thomas Bach said the McLaren report's findings would be taken up by two further commissions.

Only once those commissions had made their recommendations could the IOC decide what steps to take, he said.

"As soon as we have the report it will be handed over to the two commissions, who have already undertaken preparatory work," Bach said.

"But if you ask me for my private opinion then personally if you have an athlete being part of such a manipulation system, clearly I would not like to see this person compete again."

More on the IOC's two commissions

The IOC says its 'Inquiry Commission', chaired by former president of Switzerland Samuel Schmid, will address the "institutional conspiracy across summer and winter sports athletes" with particular regard to Sochi 2014.

Its 'Disciplinary Commission', chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald, will address "doping and manipulation of samples concerning the Russian athletes who participated at Sochi 2014".
What has already been done?

In May, McLaren was tasked by Wada with investigating allegations of doping in Russia.

He published the first part of his report - stating Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme from 2011 - in July.

As a result, Wada recommended all Russian athletes be banned from competing from the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

But the IOC chose not to impose a blanket ban, instead leaving decisions on whether Russians could compete to individual sporting federations.

Russia eventually took 271 athletes from an original entry list of 389 competitors to August's Olympic Games in Rio.

However, the IPC chose to ban the nation entirely from the Paralympics in September.

Last week, the IAAF has decided to extend Russia's ban from international competitions.

Putin's Russia (18/06/16)

The international athletics federation (IAAF) has banned Russian athletes from taking part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil because of suspected drug cheating on an industrial scale, which has to mean that the Russian Government is involved not just individual athletes.

The BBC reports on the refusal of Russian authorities to co-operate with the recent WADA investigation which makes a mockery of attempts to drive the drug cheats out of sport.

Meanwhile President Putin makes a dumb joke about the impossibility of just a few hundred, extremely violent Russian football fans 'beating up' several thousand rival English supporters during the Euro championships.

But the live TV coverage of what happened inside the ground speaks for itself as does the fact that the Russian football federation was the only one to be fined over the thuggish behaviour of its fans. 

Russia doping: New Wada report reveals obstructions to testing
BBC Olympics

Russian athletes have been banned from competing in international competitions since November 2015

Anti-doping officials in Russia are being stopped from testing athletes and are also being threatened by security services, says a new report.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) made its latest claims two days before Russia finds out whether it can send athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

They were banned from international competition after Wada accused Russia of state-sponsored doping.

Athletics chiefs meet on Friday to decide whether to lift the ban.

What does the Wada report say?

It says that:
  • 73 of 455 tests on athletes could not be collected;
  • 736 tests were declined or cancelled;
  • 23 tests were missed, which the report says is a "significant amount";
  • and 52 findings were adverse.
The report details the lengths athletes from different sports allegedly went to, both to avoid tests and fool doping control officers (DCOs).

It says one athlete was seen running away from the mixed zone after an event, while another left the stadium during a race and could not be located.

Wada also highlighted the case of an athlete who, it says, used a container - "presumably containing clean urine" - that had been inserted inside her.

When she tried to use the container, it leaked onto the floor.

The athlete is alleged to have tried to bribe the DCO before providing a sample that subsequently returned an adverse finding.

The report also says that:
  • DCOs have been intimidated when accessing military cities, with armed federal security agents threatening them with expulsion from the country;
  • Wada-accredited laboratories have reported that sample transportation packages have been opened by Russian customs, suggesting interference by officials;
  • And national championships for Olympic sports, including Olympic qualifiers, have been held in cities with restricted access due to ongoing civil conflicts, resulting in service providers declining test requests.
As a result, tests were not carried out at the national weightlifting and national Greco-Roman wrestling championships.

In some cases, testers were not told where an event was taking place.

"What really comes through, when you read through it page by page by page, is the number of occasions when there was simply no co-operation given," former Wada president Dick Pound told the BBC World Service.
Why are Russian athletes banned?

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted to suspend Russia's athletics federation on 13 November after an independent Wada report alleged "state-sponsored doping".

The report was commissioned to investigate claims made in a documentary shown by German broadcaster ARD in 2014.

The programme alleged widespread doping in Russian athletics, claiming as many as 99% of athletes had cheated.

The claims were made by whistleblowers, among them Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official, and his wife Yulia, a former 800m runner who was banned for doping.

Russian athletes, including former London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova, also admitted to taking drugs and observing corruption.

The Wada report found evidence of state involvement, as well as evidence that samples had been destroyed, doping controls had been interfered and bribes had been paid to conceal positive tests.

What happens next?

The IAAF meets on Friday in Vienna to discuss what Russian authorities have done to tackle doping and whether its athletes should compete in Rio.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the country could take legal action if its athletics federation was not reinstated, Interfax news agency has reported.

"It is a big and an important message whatever is decided," said Pound.

"If they are held to be excluded, that's a message. If they are allowed to come back in, there is going to be another message that all of the sporting authorities are going to have to deal with."

Pound said a ban on Russian athletes competing in the Olympics would be extremely difficult for the Russian government to explain to its citizens.

"You can explain all sorts of economic sanctions and political sanctions and what not if you are the state," he said.

"But it is very hard to explain to a country that really enjoys its sport and likes to watch it why it is that nobody will play with you."

Meanwhile, Russian Olympic medallists and world champions have appealed to the head of the International Olympic Committee to let athletes with no history of doping to compete at the Rio Games.

"The fraud of dishonest people should not jeopardise the career of innocent fellow athletes," said 13 sports stars in a letter to Thomas Bach.

The 13 include Alexander Popov, a four-time Olympic champion swimmer, and judo champion Tagir Khaibulaev.

The Olympic athletics programme begins in Brazil on 12 August.

Russian Alexander Popov won four freestyle swimming Olympic golds

Russian Dopes (10/11/15)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is an independent organisation charged with cleaning up international athletics and has just concluded that the Russian state, not just individual athletes, has been actively involved in cheating and corruption on a massive scale.

Predictably, Russia's response has been to rubbish WADA's investigation and to accuse other countries of engaging in a groundless conspiracy, even though the evidence against Russian athletes and officials is incontrovertible.

The BBC reports on a 'betrayal", a "destruction of public faith" and a"dark day" for athletics" against the background of the WADA logo 'Play True'.  


Doping & corruption report a 'dark day' for athletics

Image result for wada + images

A "betrayal", a "destruction of public faith" and a "dark day" for athletics.

Leading figures have responded to a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report, which has recommended Russia should be banned from competition.

British sports minister Tracey Crouch called the findings an "extraordinarily dark day for athletics".

The report examines claims of doping, cover-ups, and extortion in Russian athletics, which also implicated the IAAF, the sport's world governing body.

The report also states the London 2012 Olympics were "sabotaged" by participation of Russian athletes under suspicion, while Dick Pound - head of the independent commission - described it as "state-sponsored doping".

Athletics' darkest day?

IAAF president Lord Coe described the scale and depth of the report's findings "truly shocking".

After promising to "move quickly" on the independent commission's recommendations, Coe told BBC Sport: "I want to see a sport that is responsible and transparent and accountable and I will do anything it takes to achieve that. But this will not be swift road, this will be tough."

Former British Olympian Roger Black echoed Crouch's reaction, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If you're looking at a governing body as corrupt, and they are protecting the guilty athletes, then that changes everything going forward.

"There's always been an assumption that your governing body is there for you as an athlete, and is there to sort out the cheats.

"It's a very dark day."

Tessa Jowell, former Olympics minister, added: "This is what destroys public faith in the competition they see on their televisions or go to see. There is very clear a problem of culture."

What the athletes say

Paula Radcliffe, marathon world record holder, on Twitter: "Just got off plane to catch up on these damning and serious revelations. Too much to address in tweets: bottom line - truth eventually comes.

"Suspected some of this for years but way worse than imagined. Athletics needs to take strong action and move quickly forward in right direction."

London 2012 long jump champion Greg Rutherford posted a message on Instagram

Louise Hazel, British heptathlete: "I am disappointed but I am not surprised that doping continues to be rife through the world of athletics.

"I have been in situations where I have seen athletes doping right before my eyes.

"Giving athletes a two-year ban and allowing them to come back to compete for gold medals is just not good enough. Full-time bans and you are out of the sport. Simple as that."

Mara Yamauchi, second fastest British female marathon runner of all time: "I'm not very surprised, it helps to explain a lot of the suspicions I've had about particularly Russian athletes who I used to compete against.

"It's easy to direct your anger at the athletes but actually what this story really shows is that the serious wrongdoing is going on further up the chain on the part of agents, coaches, officials, directors of anti-doping and national federations and it's really those people that should be punished."

British 400m hurdler Dai Greene commented on Twitter about Wada's findings
Lynsey Sharp, who represented Britain in the 800m at London 2012, also reacted on Twitter
Former heptathlete and 400m runner Kelly Sotherton represented Britain at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics

Katharine Merry won 400m bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000

Official bodies react to Wada findings

Wada president Sir Craig Reedie told BBC Radio 5 live: "I think it's appalling and is probably worse than anyone imagined. Clearly there has been deliberate cheating and also oversight.

"While it is unpleasant that it has become worldwide debate, I think there should be credit given to my agency for having the courage to appoint an independent commission and putting it in the public domain."

International Olympics Committee statement: "This is a deeply shocking report and very saddening for the world of sport.

"The protection of the clean athletes is a top priority for the International Olympic Committee. We support the attempt of the independent commission to bring all the facts to light in the interest of the integrity of the sport and the protection of the clean athletes."

UK Anti-Doping statement: "The Independent Commission's findings highlight that the international playing field has not been level for our clean British athletes competing on the global stage. Today's findings will go some way to levelling that playing field for our athletes, and the whistle-blowers and media should be applauded for bringing these issues to Wada's attention."

Russian Thugs (15/06/16)

On the off chance that any readers are naive enough to believe that Russia is a normal, peaceful democratic country - just read the following Twitter comments from the Deputy Chair of the Russian Parliament, Igor Lebedev.

Now the man's an idiot, of course, but he's a senior and influential political figure who graduated from the Moscow Academy of Law in 1996, would you believe. 

If people at the top of Russian society can behave in this way, is it any wonder that violent, anti-social football hooligans follow their lead.


Igor Lebedev, Deputy Chair of Russian Parliament, praises the hooligans (ht @JoshFeldberg)

Cycling Cheats (13/03/15)

The epic scale of a drugs and doping culture in the world of professional cycling has been laid bare in a report by an Independent Reform Commission the background to which is explained here by the BBC.

But in truth the problems have been obvious for some time and my favourite example is about the cyclist who tried to explain away packs of fresh blood in his travel kitchen by claiming that these were for making black puddings.

Yet the chap is still competes to this day, as far as I know.

Doping culture in cycling 'still exists' according to Circ report

By Matt Slater - BBC Sport

Cycling continues to struggle with widespread doping, according to a landmark report into the sport's troubled recent history.

Set up last January to investigate how cycling so badly lost its way during the 1990s and 2000s, the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (Circ) has heavily criticised the sport's leadership throughout that era.

Its 227-page report, published on Monday, clears the International Cycling Union's (UCI) bosses of outright corruption but censures them for a litany of failings.

Foremost among these are that the UCI did not really want to catch cheats and therefore turned a blind eye to anything but the worst excesses.

The report's authors also accuse former UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid of failing to follow their own anti-doping rules and showing preferential treatment to disgraced former champion Lance Armstrong.

A total of 174 anti-doping experts, officials, riders and other interested parties were interviewed. These are the main points:

  • One "respected cycling professional" believes that 90% of the peloton is still doping, another put it at 20%
  • Riders are micro-dosing, taking small but regular amounts of a banned substance, to fool the latest detection methods
  • The abuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions, sick notes, is commonplace, with one rider saying 90% of these are used to boost performance
  • The use of weight-loss drugs, experimental medicine and powerful painkillers is widespread, leading to eating disorders, depression and even crashes
  • With doping done now on a more conservative basis, other forms of cheating are on the rise, particularly related to bikes and equipment
  • Doping in amateur cycling is endemic
The €3m (£2.16m) report was compiled by chairman Dr Dick Marty, a former Swiss prosecutor, and two vice-chairs, German anti-doping expert Professor Ulrich Haas and Peter Nicholson, an Australian who has investigated international terrorism and war crimes.

UCI president Brian Cookson, who swept into office in 2013 promising a fresh start for an organisation that had been badly damaged by its close links to Armstrong, thanked the panel for its work and did not try to sugar-coat its findings.

"It is clear that in the past the UCI suffered severely from a lack of good governance with individuals taking crucial decisions alone," said Cookson.

"Many [of these decisions] undermined anti-doping efforts; put the UCI in an extraordinary position of proximity to certain riders; and wasted a lot of its time and resources in open conflict with organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada)."

Cookson added that his predecessors and their close associates regularly interfered in anti-doping cases which "served to erode confidence in the UCI and the sport".
Siege mentality and a fallen hero

The issues that Cookson is referring to are dealt with over 120 pages of forensic detail.

The report explains how a sport that had always taken a lenient approach to doping, and had an entrenched, Mafia-like culture of "omerta" when it came to not talking about doping, entered a new phase when the "game-changing" blood-boosting drug EPO became readily available in the early 1990s.

With no test for it until 2000 and performance benefits of 10-15%, it did not take long before almost everybody in the sport was using it. As the report says, "it would have been hard to overestimate the prevalence of drug use in the peloton" at this time.

BBC sports editor Dan Roan

"The report should be studied by every sport, because while cycling is still clearly in a critical condition, it at least knows it is ill"

Read Dan Roan's full analysis of the Circ report

Numerous interviewees told Circ the UCI's view was it should only try to contain the problem and make sure the riders did not kill themselves, and that actually catching cheats was bad for the sport's reputation.

It was against this backdrop that Verbruggen took control of what had been an insignificant governing body and turned it into a far larger and more ambitious entity.

According to the report, the Dutchman had almost dictatorial powers at the UCI between 1991 and 2005, and continued to exert influence under the reign of his hand-picked successor, Irishman McQuaid.

The pair will be relieved to have been cleared of the most serious allegations against them, namely that they were bribed by Armstrong to cover up positive tests in 2001; and that he paid for what was meant to be an independent report commissioned by the UCI to investigate reports he had tested positive during the 1999 Tour de France.

But Circ did not spare them on a number of glaring errors of judgement and examples of poor governance:
  • World champion Laurent Brochard in 1997 and Armstrong in 1999 were both allowed to backdate medical prescriptions to avoid sanctions, a clear breach of the anti-doping rules
  • McQuaid abruptly and unilaterally changed his mind to allow Armstrong to ride at the 2009 Tour Down Under despite not being available for testing for the required six months beforehand. At the same time it was announced that Armstrong would later that season ride in the Tour of Ireland, an event organised by what is described in the report as "people known to McQuaid"
  • While Armstrong did not pay for the 2006 report into his alleged positive tests at the 1999 Tour, his lawyers did draft large sections of it, along with senior UCI staff desperate to shift blame away from the rider and onto the laboratory that leaked the results and Wada
  • The UCI asked for and accepted two large donations from Armstrong, and enquired about a more regular gift as late as 2008
  • Repeatedly came out to defend Armstrong against accusations of cheating, supporting him in two high-profile legal cases
There is also considerable criticism of the UCI's cost controls, ethics procedures and electoral practices, with Verbruggen and McQuaid accused of breaches of the rules in the 2005 and 2013 elections.

The Lance Armstrong story

Born: Plano, Texas on 18 September 1971

Tour de France victories: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 (22 individual stage wins)

World Championships road race victory: 1993

Cancer survivor: Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. The disease spreads through his body. Launches Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer. Declared cancer-free in 1997 after brain surgery and chemotherapy

Retirement: Announces he will retire after the 2005 Tour de France, which he wins. Angered by drug allegations against him, Armstrong announces in September 2008 he will return to professional cycling. In June 2010, he reveals via Twitter that the 2010 Tour de France will be his last. On 16 February 2011, Armstrong announces retirement again.

Both men have reacted by welcoming the report's central finding that there is no evidence of corruption or direct collusion in any of the numerous doping scandals that beset the sport on their watch, with Verbruggen telling the BBC: "How can I be annoyed about being cleared of cover-ups and bribes?"

He added that it is "so easy to rewrite history 25 years later".

One man who would dearly love to rewrite history is Armstrong, who told the BBC last month he hoped his two interviews with Circ would lead to the panel recommending a reduction in his lifetime ban from almost all organised sport.

The former icon will be bitterly disappointed, then, that Circ has not exercised its right to ask Usada to reconsider its sanction, despite noting on more than one occasion that his treatment is inconsistent with almost every other member of his team, not to mention the vast majority of riders he competed against.

Armstrong told the BBC he was "grateful" to Circ for letting him help with the report and said he was "deeply sorry for many things I have done". 
The job is never done

While many senior figures within the sport will be feeling very bruised by the report's assessment of what happened during the EPO era, Circ did acknowledge the huge improvements made in the anti-doping effort, particularly after 2006.

It noted a far more aggressive approach to catching cheats, greater investment in anti-doping and the early adoption of the biological passport, the most effective tool in the fight against cheats since the EPO test was introduced in 2000.

Lance Armstrong admits doping to win cycling titles

But the interviewees also made it clear that doping had not been eradicated.

The report listed dozens of substances and cutting-edge doping methods that riders are still believed to use. It also noted that teams do not know where their riders are training at all times, or with whom they are training.

The ready availability and falling costs of doping products is also flagged up as a huge concern, as is the continuing involvement of a number of unethical doctors.

The report concludes with a raft of recommendations to help prevent cycling from ever returning to the dark days of a decade ago, with ideas such as centralised pharmacies at races, a powerful riders' union, a greater push to encourage whistleblowing and more testing done overnight to catch micro-dosers.

Cycling Cheats (10/05/13)

The Spanish authorities have finally caught up with the doctor - Eufemiano Fuentes - behind the outrageous cheating that has been taking place for years in the cynical world of professional cycling.

Fuentes was sentenced to one year in prison by a Spanish Court and also banned from practising as a sports doctor for four years - although any right thinking person will be asking why this crook was not banned for life and locked up for a long time.

Because he's a dishonest criminal fraudster whose willingness to ignore the medical ethics of his profession has helped people win big prize money in top flight cycling events - by cheating others who were playing by the rules.    

The corrupt doctor carried out blood transfusions on some of the world's top cyclists and Fuentes is only now being punished - seven years after police raided his Madrid laboratories and found dozens of bags of refrigerated and frozen blood - marked with code names for his many customers.

Many of the bags belonged to cyclists who had left blood with Fuentes so that they could be re-infused with it during races in order to improve their performance - including the Olympic-medal winner Tyler Hamilton.

The aim of the transfusion was to artificially improve a cyclist's performance by increasing their red blood cell count and - in addition - Fuentes supplied his clients with banned substances, including testosterone, insulin, and hormones.

The Spanish judge said that Fuentes had put the health of the cyclists at great risk - by increasing their chances of suffering from thrombosis, heart attacks, nausea and vomiting - as well as an increased risk of doing damage to their kidneys and brain.

But incredibly the judge refused to release the unused transfusion bags to sporting and other authorities so that the identities of others involved in the scandal could be tracked down and brought to justice.

Justice of a sort that is because Fuentes is unlikely to even set foot in prison - since sentences under two years are normally suspended in Spain.

The BBC reports on a incident in the normally quiet county of Wiltshire involving a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, who appears to be the victim of some kind of mysterious poisoning.

Lots more to follow on this story I'm sure including, no doubt, a statement from President Vladimir Putin denying any involvement of the Russian state.

Putin's denial will follow a long line of similar denials such as:
  • The murder of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive Polonium in 2006
  • Team Russia's systematic cheating in the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
  • The shooting down of civilian Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in 2014
  • Large-scale, organised Russian interference in America's presidential election in 2016
In addition many of Putin's internal critics have died suddenly and violently including the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, both of whom were gunned down by assassins in Moscow.

Critically ill man is former Russian spy
Media caption - "He was doing strange hand movements, looking up to the sky": 

What we know so far

A man who is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire is a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain, the BBC understands.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was granted refuge in the UK following a "spy swap" between the US and Russia in 2010.

He and a woman, 33, were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.

Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury has been closed by police "as a precaution".

The substance has not been identified.

Wiltshire Police are investigating whether a crime has been committed. They said the pair had no visible injuries but had been found unconscious at the Maltings shopping centre.

They have declared a "major incident" and multiple agencies are investigating. They said it had not been declared as a counter-terrorism incident, but they were keeping an "open mind".

They said officers did not believe there was any risk to the wider public.

Col Skripal, who is a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain.

He was convicted of passing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Russia said Col Skripal had been paid $100,000 for the information, which he had been supplying from the 1990s.

He was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 US spies in 2010, as part of a swap. Col Skripal was later flown to the UK.

He and the woman, who police said were known to each other, are both in intensive care at Salisbury District Hospital.

Media caption - Witness: "They looked like they'd been taking something quite strong"

A number of locations in the city centre were cordoned off and teams in full protective gear used hoses to decontaminate the street.

The hospital advised people to attend routine operations and outpatient appointments unless they were contacted. It said its A&E department was open but busy because of the weather.

Neighbours at Sergei Skripal's home in Salisbury say police arrived around 17:00 GMT on Sunday and have been there ever since.

They said he was friendly and in recent years had lost his wife.

Media caption - Temp Asst Chief Constable Craig Holden: "We are unable to ascertain whether or not a crime has taken place"

Eyewitness Freya Church told the BBC it looked like the two people had taken "something quite strong".

She said: "On the bench there was a couple, an older guy and a younger girl. She was sort of leant in on him, it looked like she had passed out maybe.

"He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky...

"They looked so out of it I thought even if I did step in I wasn't sure how I could help." 

Image caption - Public Health England has not confirmed what the substance was

Image caption - The hospital's A&E was closed on Monday while two people were treated

The BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera said government officials were not commenting about events in Salisbury, but that the possibility of an unexplained substance being involved will draw comparisons with the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

Mr Litvinenko was a former intelligence officer who, an inquiry later found, was probably killed on the orders of Vladimir Putin.

Public Health England said its specialists would be joining a "specially convened group" to consider the incident.

What were the charges against Col Skripal?

Col Skripal was convicted of "high treason in the form of espionage" by Moscow's military court in August 2006. He was stripped off all his titles and awards.

He was alleged by the Russian security service FSB to have begun working for the British secret services while serving in the army in the 1990s.

He had been passing information classified as state secrets and been paid for the work by MI6, the FSB claimed.

Col Skripal pleaded guilty at his trial and co-operated with investigators, reports said at the time.