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Putin Says Russia Needs To Probe Doping Charges

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin made his remarks in Sochi on November 11.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made his remarks in Sochi on November 11.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow needs to conduct its own investigation into allegations that its track and field athletes took performance-enhancing drugs in a process condoned by Russian officials.

In his first comments on the charges made in a November 9 report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission, Putin said in Sochi on November 11 that Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and other officials involved in Russia's athletics program must conduct an internal investigation.

He said at a crisis meeting of Russian sports chiefs that Russia must do "everything to get rid of this problem" and should cooperate with international athletics organizations.

Putin added that responsibility for violations of doping rules "should be individual" and that not all athletes should be penalized.

The Russian president's comments come the same day the International Olympics Committee (IOC) said it is ready to strip medals from any Russian athletes found guilty of doping and is considering retesting drug samples from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In Lausanne, IOC President Thomas Bach said on November 11 that the Russian doping scandal is "sad and shocking."

He said he would "never have imagined that in an international federation, money would be solicited from athletes to manipulate [drug] tests," a reference to accusations of the Russian Athletics Federation that was in the WADA report.

After an urgent meeting of its executive board on November 10, the IOC panel also agreed to suspend Lamine Diack as an honorary member amid charges that he received over 1 million euros ($1.07 million) in bribes in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests of Russian athletes.

The IOC said competitors, coaches, or officials mentioned in a WADA commission report this week who were proven to have violated doping regulations should be punished and stripped of any medals.

The report on November 9 alleged widespread corruption and collusion by Russian officials to cover up drug test results, destroy samples, and intimidate laboratory staff -- charges that the Kremlin has dismissed as unfounded.

Mutko said on November 11 that the WADA report was designed to "weaken competition." He said he believes the whole doping issue is an effort to "weaken our team, slow them down."

The report recommended that Russia's track and field federation be suspended from all international competitions until it cleans up its act on doping, while it named five Russian athletes who should be banned from competitions for life.

Taking its cue from the doping agency, "the IOC has asked the [International Association of Athletics Federations] to initiate disciplinary procedures against all athletes, coaches and officials who have participated in the Olympic Games and are accused of doping in the report," the committee said in a statement.

"With its zero-tolerance policy against doping...the IOC will take all the necessary measures and sanctions with regard to the withdrawal and reallocation of medals and, as the case may be, exclusion of coaches and officials from future Olympic Games."

Among the five Russian athletes targeted for lifetime competition bans by the doping agency were two medalists in the 2012 London Olympics -- women's 800-meter winner Maria Savinova and third-place finisher Ekaterina Poistogova.

The doping report said the London games were "sabotaged" by Russian athletes who should have been banned from competing because of previous suspicious test results.

If medals are taken away from the two alleged Russian dopers, South Africa's Caster Semenya would be bumped up from silver to gold. Kenya's Pamela Jelimo, who finished fourth, could move up to silver, while Alysia Johnson Montano of the United States could go from fifth to bronze.

On the Sochi Winter Games, which were a major point of pride for Russians, the Olympics committee said it had no reason at this time to question the drug-testing results despite an allegation in the doping report that the Russian testing lab was infiltrated by agents of Russia's FSB intelligence service.

The IOC said it found no such irregularities at the time samples were taken, but added that "should substantial doubts arise," it will retest the samples, which it keeps on hand for 10 years.

"In any case, the IOC may retest samples once new scientific techniques become available," it said.

The IOC has previously stripped medals retroactively based on retesting of samples, including some gold medalists.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax