© REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
The World Anti-Doping Agency has officially suspended the Russian national laboratory, rejecting the claims by Russian experts that data tampering originated with former staffers who fled to the US as 'whistleblowers.'

The National Anti-Doping Laboratory of Moscow was suspended on Wednesday with immediate effect, by the decision of WADA Executive Committee chair Witold Bańka - a Polish athlete turned politician - and following the recommendations of the Laboratory Expert Group.

WADA suspended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in December and banned the country's athletes from competing in the Olympics and international events for the next four years, citing "discovery... of manipulation of some of the data extracted from the Moscow Laboratory in January 2019," which therefore violated RUSADA's 2018 reinstatement.

The "intentional alteration and deletion of laboratory data" is a "serious violation" of the ethics code, the agency said. Separate investigations by the federal investigative committee and independent experts showed that the data in the laboratory information management system (LIMS) was altered between November 2015 and June 2016, by former head of the Moscow laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov and two of his colleagues who all fled to the US and claimed to be RUSADA 'whistleblowers.'

Edits to the LIMS were made from an IP address in California and came from an account of Oleg Migachev, one of the three 'whistleblowers,' the investigations showed. Rodchenkov and his colleagues claimed RUSADA was engaged in covering up a widespread state-backed doping program. It was on the basis of their claims that WADA first suspended RUSADA and the Moscow lab in 2015.

RUSADA said that the new suspension was expected, given WADA's December 9 decision to suspend Russian athletes - which Moscow is currently appealing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In the meantime, athletes' blood samples will be sent to laboratories in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Italy and Poland.

Moscow has disputed Rodchenkov's claims and described him as a disgruntled employee seeking to scapegoat the RUSADA and the country for his personal misdeeds. Even so, RUSADA has sought to comply with WADA's 2015 decision and conducted a thorough overhaul of its standards and practices. The latest claims of data manipulation, however, are seen by the Russian authorities as politically motivated.