The International Olympic Committee has vowed to take "the toughest sanctions available" as world sports' top anti-doping body called for a ban on all Russian athletes competing at next month's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The unprecedented recommendation stems from an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that found a pervasive "state-dictated" system to allow for cheating among athletes.
President Vladimir Putin said Russian officials named in the WADA report would be temporarily suspended during an investigation, but asked for more detailed information.
In a statement published by the Kremlin, Putin said that there was no place for doping in sport, although he appeared to cast doubt on the report by adding that it was based on the testimony of just one man and that the Olympic movement could be on the verge of split.
WADA investigators found that Russia's Sports Ministry and its senior officials "directed, controlled, and oversaw" a doping program at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
It also said the state-controlled doping program benefited Russian athletes "from the vast majority of summer and winter Olympic sports" at Olympics over at least a four-year period, including the Russia-organized Sochi Games.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach described the findings as "shocking and unprecedented" and said the IOC "will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated."
Athletes and fans alike have been awaiting word of the extent to which these and other findings of systematic cheating in Russian sports will affect the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next month, where most Russian track-and-field athletes and weightlifters are already facing a ban over previous findings.
The report paints a damning picture of Russian politicians in charge of overseeing development of sports in a country of 142 million people that consistently fares high in international medal counts.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is mentioned more than 20 times in the 97-page report.
In its July 18 statement, WADA advised that Russian government officials be prevented from attending or otherwise gaining access to international competitions, including the Rio Games in August.
"The [Russian] Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes' analytical results or sample swapping and the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP [Center of Sports Preparation for Russian athletes] and both Moscow and Sochi [anti-doping] laboratories," said Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Richard McLaren, who led the commission.
The report said cheating went beyond the 2014 Sochi Games and included the 2013 athletics world championships in Moscow.
It said the anti-doping laboratories "operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a state-dictated failsafe system."
Disappearing Positive Methodology
The system was described by McLaren as a "Disappearing Positive Methodology" whereby positive doping samples were reported as negative.
WADA ordered the investigation following disclosures made by Russian Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory, who fled to the United States.
Rodchenkov told The New York Times two months ago that he doped dozens of athletes before the Sochi Olympics. He said the program involved the switching of tainted samples with clean ones in the dark of night, including through a hole in the sample-room wall, and it shielded Russian athletes, including more than a dozen medal winners, from testing positive.
Rodchenkov had claimed that with the help of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), he and other officials managed to open and reseal tamper-resistant bottles used for storing urine samples and replace the contents with "clean" urine.
The new McLaren report concludes that Rodchenkov is "a credible and truthful person" on the question of Russian doping.
In an early reaction from Moscow, the head of the Russian Duma's sports committee, Dmitry Svishchev, was quoted by Interfax as saying Rodchenkov should be detained and extradited to Russia.
McLaren told a news conference in Toronto that several samples from Russian athletes at Sochi 2014 stored by the anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne were sent to a different lab in London.
McLaren said "100 percent of the bottles” had scratch marks around the necks of the bottle -- microscopic proof that they had been manipulated.
McLaren said both Russia's sports authorities and the secret service were involved in the doping program.
The Disappearing Positive Methodology began in 2011, the report concluded, shortly after Russia's disappointing performance at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It also included the 2013 track-and-field world championships in Moscow and was in place during the 2015 swimming world championships in Kazan.
The McLaren report made no explicit recommendations.
Travis Tygart, the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said the investigative report into Russian doping confirms what he termed a "mind-blowing level of corruption" within Russian sports and government.
At least 10 national anti-doping organizations, including the United States and Canada, and more than 20 athlete groups representing Olympians from around the world have prepared a request that the IOC ban Russia from the Olympics if the report validates Rodchenkov's allegations.
Athletics ruling body International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has suspended Russia's track-and -field team from the Olympics after a separate investigation.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is expected to rule on July 19 on the eligibility of 68 Russian athletes who have appealed to compete in Rio.
Two former directors of Russia's Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Nikita Kamayev and Vyacheslav Sinev, died less than two weeks apart in February. RUSADA said the 52-year-old Kamayev died of a heart attack after skiing, and did not elaborate on the cause of death for Sinev, 58.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and BBC