Kremlin Rejects Charges of Systemic Doping by Russian Athletes
A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL
The Kremlin has dismissed allegations from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about the systemic, state-sponsored use of banned performance-enhancing drugs by Russian athletes, saying the assertions were groundless.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on November 10 said: "Until some evidence is presented...it is difficult to accept these accusations, they are quite groundless."
The Kremlin also said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on November 11 with the heads of Russia's sporting federations to discusss preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil -- an event that Russian athletes may be banned from taking part in.
Meanwhile, the head of the Russian anti-doping agency, Nikita Kamaev, has rejected allegations that Russian security services interfered in laboratory work, saying the charges are "complete nonsense" and the product of an "inflamed imagination."
Kamaev confirmed that Russia's drug-testing laboratory has shut down after being stripped of its WADA accreditation.
Earlier on November 10, Russia’s Sports Ministry said it was open for closer cooperation with WADA in order to eliminate “any” irregularities on the part of the Russian anti-doping watchdog and its accredited laboratory.
The statements come a day after an anti-doping commission report detailed systematic and widespread offenses in Russia over many years -- including destruction of evidence at the Russian laboratory, bribery, subterfuge, and cheating.
Dick Pound, a co-author of the 335-page report and former head of WADA, said: "All of this could not have continued to happen without the knowledge of and either applied or stated consent of the authorities” in Russia.
Pound called for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to suspend the Russian Athletics Federation from competitions, including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Russia has until the end of the week to formally respond to the report.
He said the IAAF council would decide whether to suspend the Russian Athletics Federation.
He promised to act "very quickly" on the matter.
'Measures to Remedy the Situation'
The Russian Sports Ministry late on November 9 issued a statement saying it was "not surprised by most of the points" raised in the scathing report and suggested that recent changes of management at Russian athletic organizations will help eliminate the doping problems.
"We are fully aware of the problems in the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) and we have undertaken measures to remedy the situation: there is a new president in ARAF, a new head coach, and they are currently rejuvenating the coaching staff," the ministry said.
"Russia has been and will continue to be fully committed to the fight against doping in sport."
The report was the result of months of work by the commission set up by the agency after the German television network ARD aired a scathing documentary in December about doping in Russia.
The documentary’s central claim -- that Russian track and field was plagued by doping -- was mostly corroborated by the commission’s report.
In the report, athletes, trainers, coaches, doctors, and sport-related institutions are implicated, along with the country’s own anti-doping agency and a licensed Moscow laboratory that did testing for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The report detailed payments by athletes to conceal tests and how coaches and managers gave advance notification to athletes when inspectors would be taking samples. It also said the testing laboratory was visited regularly by agents from Russia’s top security agency, the Federal Security Service.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko suggested Russia was being unfairly singled out, and that other countries also had similar problems.
"We have nothing to be shy of. Yes, we do have problems today, but we never hushed them up," he told Interfax.
Vadim Zelichenok, the acting head of the Russian Athletics Federation, said the anti-doping agency had no right to suspend Russia from competitions -- only the IAAF could.
"It is only a recommendation," Zelichenok said of the WADA report.
In addition to suspending the Russian federation, WADA also called for lifetime bans on five Russian athletes and five coaches, and for the accreditation of the Russian anti-doping lab to be revoked.
The commission found the Moscow laboratory destroyed 1,400 doping tests in December 2014 ahead of a visit by a delegation from WADA.
The independent commission's report reveals that "Russian athletes were often willing participants."
"There are documented cases where athletes who did not want to participate in 'the program' were informed they would not be considered as part of the federation's national team for competition,” it said.
The report identified "corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics, evidence of which has been transmitted to Interpol for appropriate investigation."
WADA statistics show that Russia is the world leader in doping by athletes, with 225 violations across a variety of sports in 2013, 37 more than second-place Turkey.
Four Russian Olympic gold medalists have been banned for doping in the past 12 months: race walkers Sergei Kirdyapkin, Olga Kaniskina, and Valery Borchin, and 2012 steeplechase winner Yulia Zaripova.
The German documentary aired in December also found that that the IAAF had failed to investigate hundreds of dubious blood tests between 2001 and 2012.
The commission report pointedly noted that the IAAF had defended the Russia federation for years, and referenced both the IAAF former chief, Lamine Diack, and its former treasurer, Valentin Balakhnichev.
Last week, French authorities charged Diack, who resigned in August, with taking more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in bribes to cover up doping cases involving Russian athletes.
Balakhnichev, who resigned аs IAAF treasurer in December and as head of the Russian Athletics Federation in February, two months after the German documentary aired, could not be immediately located for comment.
Ahead of the WADA report’s release, Balakhnichev, who served 25 years as head of the federation, told Russian media on November 7: "Let them present their claims to me, I will fight them.”
While focusing on Russia and its athletics foundation, the commission report alludes to the broader problem that spans both countries and sports.
“Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport,” it said.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters.
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