Putin set for Russia doping briefing
The Russian president has made no comment since the damning charges surfaced in a lengthy report by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the allegations were due to be discussed at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi involving Putin, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and the heads of Russian sports federations.
Bad weather in the area, however, cast some doubt over whether the meeting would be able to go ahead as planned.
The meeting, said Peskov, had already been on the cards for weeks to discuss the country’s preparations for next summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The WADA-commissioned report outlined systematic doping in Russian athletics and large-scale corruption reaching up to government level and its chairman, Canadian lawyer Richard Pound, called for Russia to be banned from all athletics competition.
Subsequently, the head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Sebastian Coe, gave Russia until the end of the week to respond to the unprecedented charges.
Ahead of the Sochi meeting, Mutko said he believed the doping allegations were aimed at tarnishing the country’s image.
– Groundless –
“This possibility exists because some benefit from removing a direct competitor, and others benefit from soiling the country’s image,” he told RIA Novosti state news agency, adding that honest Russian athletes should not have to suffer because of “those who break some rules”.
The Kremlin has already dismissed the allegations as “groundless” and sports authorities in the country have promised a rapid response to avoid being sidelined from next year’s Games.
Mutko said he would on Thursday provide an answer to WADA’s allegations against Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA, adding that the organisation had “no doubt” it could meet international anti-doping standards.
The WADA-led commission said RUSADA doping control officers had “routinely” accepted bribes from athletes to ensure their doping tests would be found negative, among other damning findings.
The head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, resigned late Tuesday, hours after his laboratory was suspended over the WADA allegations.
WADA accused Rodchenkov of being at the heart of a scheme to cover up widespread use of illegal drugs among Russian athletes, including deliberately destroying positive test samples.
The crisis engulfing athletics, long viewed as the flagship of the Olympic Games, comes hot on the heels of a huge corruption scandal at world football’s top body FIFA and as cycling is still reeling from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal
On Wednesday it also saw shamed former IAAF president Lamine Diack resign from his position on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he had served as an honorary member, the IOC said.
The 82-year-old Diack, who is being probed over corruption charges, “has resigned from his position as an honorary member of the IOC,” said IOC presidency spokesman Mark Adams in an email sent to AFP.
– Suspicions –
Diack had been provisionally suspended by the IOC on Tuesday evening. He became an honorary member of the committee in 2013.
The Senegalese national served as head of IAAF for 16 years until August when he was replaced by Coe.
He was arrested by French investigators and charged with corruption last week amid allegations he took bribes to cover up doping cases, principally in Russia.
Fears were growing, meanwhile, that the Russian athletics scandal could widen to include other countries and other sports, as WADA suggested in its report.
Andrey Baranov, a Russian sports agent who sparked the global investigation into athletics’ doping called for the sport’s authorities to also look at other countries.
He told Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian newspaper: “It is wrong just to be focusing on Russia. There should be a similar investigation into countries like Kenya and Ethiopia too.
“Their top athletes are earning far more than the Russians. Yet their levels of testing are very limited.”
The German TV documentary that triggered the WADA investigation claimed that a third of the 146 world and Olympic medals awarded between 2001 and the 2012 London Olympics were tainted by suspicions of doping.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, said it did not believe there was any problem with drugs results from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, carried out at a WADA-accredited laboratory.