From A-bomb designs to this caustic liquid

​The great Russian urine scam of the 2010s, as reported by the press and the anti-doping watchdog WADA:

Before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia created a storage bank of clean, frozen urine. (BBC)

The report noted evidence that FSB agents created a way to remove the caps from urine sample bottles, previously thought to have been tamper-proof, in order to swap dirty samples for clean ones. Security agents and Russian doping officials passed the bottles to each other through a “mouse hole” in the wall of a Sochi laboratory… (FT)

Russian secret agents — referred to as ‘magicians’ by deputy sports minister Nagornykh — had worked out a way to circumvent the tamper-proof bottles… [One of them] posed as a sewer engineer to access the Sochi laboratory… (DM)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, what brought down the sprinkle swappers? Easy: “all the bottles had scratches and marks” on the inside, easily detectable with a common optical microscope. A truly epic embarrassment, in every way and aspect.

Appendix 1. Pocket-picking, they say, requires pianistic digital dexterity and even greater tactile sensitivity – skills that cannot be acquired overnight but take years of apprenticeship to develop. The lower ranks of the underworld once recognized the pickpockets as an aristocracy, but to grandmasters of fraud and laundering they are but agile bottom-feeding fishlets. As for wannabe pickpockets looking to eke out a dirty living without the pain of lengthy training, these are doomed to failure and contempt.

Appendix 2. Nigel Cawthorne’s description of a scene from New Say Never Again, a Bond movie:

…Bond is set upon by a large thug. After an extended fight, Bond throws a beaker of caustic liquid in the man’s face. He reels back, impales himself on broken glassware and falls dead. The label on the beaker reads: ‘James Bond – urine sample.’


  1. What moral do you think the Russian authorities will draw from this sorry episode? Don’t cheat, or cheat more professionally? Hmm…

    You missed the opportunity to mention Robert Bresson’s film “Pickpocket” alongside “Never Say Never Again”. One scene in particular is a brilliant demonstration of pickpocketing as an art (IIRC the actors were a group of professional magicians). Oddly enough, the austere French auteur Bresson was a fan of Bond movies. I’ve seen an interview where he says he’d enjoyed “For Your Eyes Only” (that had a famous French Bond girl though, Carole Bouquet). I don’t know what he thought of the slice of 80s cheesiness that was “Never Say Never Again”.

    Incidentally, an older friend of mine used to know the actor who had Bond’s urine flung in his face, Pat Roach. He was a professional wrestler who was also a scrap metal merchant. He owned a cafe in Birmingham too and served customers between doing press-ups. He appeared as an actor quite regularly on UK TV in the 1980s.

    • The Kremlin is going to ask, “Was it worth it?” and “What did we do wrong?” I don’t know what answers they will come up with, but they probably believe that everybody cheats anyway. One major change could be outsourcing doping and cheating services to private firms for deniability and efficiency.

      I wonder if China has changed its approach to doping. I wouldn’t rule it out. About a decade ago, Chinese women were making advances in biathlon but then disappeared off the radar until 2016. It’s only a guess, but what if they were reacting to the more stringent tests by actually cutting down on stimulants? That would have killed their performance but given them enough time to raise a new, clean generation for their 2022 winter Olympics.

      I’m an almost complete ignoramus as far as cinema is concerned. Thanks for the tip on Pat Roach: he surely had an impressive film career (his roles include “The French Executioneer” and “Painter”) but I wouldn’t have bothered to find out on my own.

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