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Russian Officials Call Doping Charges By German TV 'Silly'


Under-fire Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko
Under-fire Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian officials are scrambling to refute charges by a German TV channel that they are not serious about fighting doping and reforming in time to compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Beleaguered Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and disgraced track and field coach Viktor Chegin disparaged the charges made by investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt in his latest documentary, Secret Doping: Showdown For Russia, broadcast by ARD television on June 8.

Mutko -- who was interviewed by Seppelt in the documentary -- said on June 9 that the documentary was "silly," "implausible," and a "targeted attack on Russia."

Peskov said the charges in the ARD report were "unconvincing" and not backed up by "substantial evidence." He later admitted he had not watched the documentary, TASS reported, but had read many reports about it.

Peskov also declared that former Russian anti-doping lab chief Grigory Rodchenkov is working of his "30 pieces of silver," a biblical reference to Judas's betrayal of Jesus for money.

Rodchenkov was fired in December after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigative report claimed Moscow was involved in elaborate and systemic doping of its track and field athletes.

Currently living under protection in the United States, Rodchenkov was called a cheat whom Peskov said has created a "fabricated" and "far-fetched" story about Russian doping.

Rodchenkov's assertions, detailed in a New York Times report, have been taken seriously by WADA -- which is now retesting urine samples from the Beijing, London, and Sochi Olympics.

The IAAF -- track and field's world governing body -- is to rule on June 17 whether Russian athletes will be able to compete in the Rio Olympics or if a current ban on Russia's track athletes will be extended.

Chegin, who was banned for life in February for his role in doping, has had 20 athletes under his supervision either suspended or banned for doping between 2005 and 2015.

Facial Recognition

Mutko told Seppelt during an interview in the documentary that Chegin was no longer working as a coach in Russia, per the lifetime ban on him.

But Seppelt found two athletes who claimed Chegin continued to coach Russian athletes and revealed an undercover video that showed a man riding in the back of a van that was following race walkers as they trained in the Black Sea town of Adler, which is near Sochi, in April.

In the documentary, a German face-recognition specialist compared a faint photo of the man in the van with photos of Chegin and said there is a 95-99 percent chance it is the same man.

Chegin denied on June 9 that he was in Adler in April and said "this is not serious."

Mutko said first on June 9 that Chegin was no longer involved in coaching. He later admitted that "[some athletes] may be calling him [and asking him to coach], but he is not officially employed [as a Russian track coach]."

The ARD report -- the fourth in a series by Seppelt on doping in Russia -- also charged that Mutko was involved in hiding a Russian soccer player's failed drug test.

Seppelt showed documents he was given that include a note asking for advice from an individual identified as "VL" on the Krasnodar player's failed test. VL would match Mutko's first name and middle initial.

Seppelt on June 9 called "nonsense" a charge that he paid Rodchenkov to provide him with documents.

He also told Russia's Business FM radio station that he does not think Rodchenkov is biased against Russia.

Seppelt was also criticized on June 9 by Dmitry Shlyakhtin, the president of the Russian track and field association, for the timing of his documentaries.

"I don't think it's just a coincidence -- it's a pattern we have seen many times," said Shlyakhtin, about the ARD documentary being released just nine days before the IAAF decides on the fate of Russian athletes' participation in the Olympics.

He told Rossia 1 television that the last documentary by Seppelt was broadcast on March 8, a few days ahead of another IAAF meeting.

Seppelt also announced on Twitter that a whistle-blower website, (or, would be operational by June 12 and would be used as a forum for athletes, officials, or coaches involved in doping to present documents or other materials on the issue.

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