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Russian Officials Pledge Anti-Doping Teamwork

Russian officials have pledged to work with world anti-doping authorities to fight drug cheats in sports and have floated the idea of moving Russia's anti-doping facilities outside the purview of the country's executive branch of government.

The statements come with the Russian sports world hamstrung by unprecedented bans and battling embarrassing positive tests among athletes and accusations that doping has essentially been a state-managed affair.

In a letter to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Sir Craig Reedie ahead of a July 15 deadline for final WADA conclusions about doping in Russian athletics and disclosed on July 6, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Russian officials "are ready to work with you to build a transparent structure which makes it impossible to violate even in theory the international standards of WADA by the staff of [Russian anti-doping agency] RUSADA and the [Russian anti-doping] laboratory."

The tone from Moscow has changed dramatically since November, when even in the face of overwhelming evidence of cheating in a scathing WADA report, top Russian officials claimed they were being singled out unfairly.

Russia's track-and-field team as well as rowers, weightlifters, and various other athletes are facing exclusion from next month's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following failed drug tests both old and new, and mounting evidence of years of cover-up.

The Russian Olympic Committee and 68 athletes have appealed to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport against a ban on competing in Rio and an expedited decision is due by July 21.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on July 6 suggested making the national anti-doping center an independent entity, rather than keeping it part of the federal government.

He said that "to give [a Russian anti-doping center] wider discretion and to exclude any kind of doubts or suspicions, I believe we could as well consider taking such an organization out of the control of certain government agencies and turning it into, say, an autonomous institution or another kind of structure," according to Interfax.

Based on reporting by Interfax and Reuters