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Russia ran a state-sponsored doping program at the Olympics, report confirms

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new report released today confirms allegations that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping program during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and beyond. The World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned the independent investigation after Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, told The New York Times earlier this year that he had covered-up the doping of dozens of Russian Olympic athletes during the 2014 winter games and did so at the direction of Russian officials. While it's too early to know for certain what will come of the report, it may lead to Russia being the first country banned from the Olympics for doping.

The two-month investigation, conducted by Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor and sports lawyer, confirmed Rodchenkov's claims that the Russians had figured out a way to open and reseal bottles used to store urine samples that were previously thought to be tamper-proof. This allowed them to replace tainted samples with clean urine. McLaren found that a random selection of stored samples taken ahead of the Sochi Olympics had scratches that indicated the bottles had been tampered with. The scratches were not visible to the human eye and could only be seen under a microscope.

In his report, McLaren said that 100 percent of the bottles had scratches that prove they'd been tampered with. He also wrote that the scheme was highly organized, with involvement from Russia's anti-doping organization, its ministry of sports, and the Russian secret service. He also provided evidence that this organized, systemic cheating regime extends beyond the Sochi games.

Russia could be the first country banned from the Olympics for doping

The report has sparked calls for the International Olympic Committee to completely ban Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Russia's track and field team was banned from the summer games last month for doping by the International Association of Athletics Federations (which governs the sport). Entire countries have been banned from the Olympics in the past. Germany and Japan were barred from the 1948 games following the Second World War; South Africa was banned between 1960 and 1992 because of apartheid. But if Russia is banned because of this report, it would mark the first time that the IOC has excluded an entire country from competing because of doping.

The IOC issued a statement today saying it would pursue the "toughest possible" sanctions against any implicated party. The organization has scheduled a conference call for Tuesday to discuss these sanctions.