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Russia Declines To Open Criminal Case Over WADA Doping Report

  • RFE/RL

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian prosecutors have studied allegations of systemic doping by its athletes detailed in a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but have declined to open a formal investigation, according to the country's sports minister.

"I can say only that the prosecutor-general carefully considered the report in question and did not find a single, legally based fact for opening a case of any kind," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Sportfakt on April 8.

A 335-page WADA report in November 2015 accused Russian athletes of systematically taking banned, performance-enhancing drugs, with state support, in allegations that led to the suspension of the country's athletics federation from international competitions.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected allegations of state involvement, saying responsibility should be "personal," but ordered his sports minister to give the issue the "greatest possible attention."

"It is essential that we conduct our own internal investigation and provide the most open -- and I want to underline -- the most open professional cooperation with international anti-doping structures,” Putin said.

Russia has been scrambling to convince international officials to reverse the athletics suspension that could prevent it competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Russian sports has been rocked by another scandal this year, with over 30 of its athletes, including tennis star Maria Sharapova, testing positive for meldonium, a recently banned substance that could increase athletes' endurance.

The Russian ice-hockey team for the under-18 world championships starting in the United States on April 14 was replaced at the 11th hour by the under-17 team, spurring speculation of more doping problems.

Speaking to TASS on April 8, Sports Minister Mutko said the roster change was made to "minimize" the risk of testing positive for meldonium, which was banned on January 1.

"If an athlete or a group of athletes used meldonium in October-November, we don’t know whether its traces will be found," he said.

In his interview with the Sportfakt website, Mutko said Russia has been following WADA's recommendations, saying "we agreed with WADA's decision to stop the activities of RusADA (the Russian Anti-Doping Agency) and about the need to reaccredit our laboratory."

Mutko's positivity was not shared last month by Dick Pound, the author of the WADA report, who warned on March 7 that "Russia may not make it back for Rio," saying, "There seems to be some evidence that they're just changing deck chairs on the Titanic."

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