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Russia Admits To Some Doping As Suspension Decision Looms

  • RFE/RL

Acting President of the Russian Athletics Federation Vadim Zelichenok: "We admit some things, we argue with some things, some are already fixed -- it's a variety."

Acting President of the Russian Athletics Federation Vadim Zelichenok: "We admit some things, we argue with some things, some are already fixed -- it's a variety."

Russia has submitted its formal reply to charges of widespread doping to the world athletics governing body, admitting to some charges and disputing others, a top official says.

The move came as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) prepares to consider suspending Russia's track-and-field team in international competitions in an emergency meeting on November 13.

If Russia is banned, the country's track-and-field team could be excluded from next year's Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

A damning report by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission this week recommended that the Russian track federation be suspended, saying its athletes and officials were involved in "extensive" use of performance-enhancing drugs, obstructed doping tests, and helped to cover up drug use.

Vadim Zelichenok, head of the Russian Athletics Federation (VFLA), who the antidoping commission said had refused to cooperate with its investigation, said his body agreed with some of the doping charges in the report but disputed others.

"We agreed with some positions.... However, we explained that all these irregularities happened under the old leadership of the VFLA and took place some time ago," he told TASS.

"Some of the allegations are just not fair," Zelichenok added. "We gave a detailed reply to every point they made: or we agreed and pledged to change the situation."

Zelichenok told the Associated Press, "We admit some things, we argue with some things, some are already fixed -- it's a variety."

And in yet another interview with the R-Sport news agency on November 12, he said, "We have produced [the report] in such a way as to try to prove our innocence."

While the VFLA seeks to exonerate at least some of its athletes, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said regardless of what action is taken by the international federation, Russia will not boycott the 2016 games in Rio.

"Russia is against a boycott. Russia is against political interference in sport," he said.

Mutko said Russia was already taking steps to curb doping problems. In one move, he told AP, the Russian Olympic Committee asked former Russian track federation President Valentin Balakhnichev to resign from its executive board.

The doping commission's report said Balakhnichev was "ultimately responsible" for doping and cover-ups at the federation during his tenure and linked him to instances in which money was allegedly extorted from athletes.

Balakhnichev's resignation follows the resignation earlier this week of Russia's discredited antidoping laboratory boss, Grigory Rodchenkov, who had been accused of deliberately destroying almost 1,500 drug samples.

Mutko has suggested that Russia would consider appointing for the first time a "foreign specialist" to head the lab to try to get it accredited again.

Meanwhile, the president of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, met with Russian Olympic Committee head Aleksandr Zhukov in Lausanne, Switzerland, on November 12, amid signs that both sides are working toward an agreement that could avoid a ban from the games next year.

Bach has stressed that the IOC is ready to strip any medals from Russian Olympic athletes who are found guilty of doping, but has said the question of sanctions and suspensions is up to other sports bodies.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and TASS
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