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Russian Officials Refuse To Accept Charges Of State-Sponsored Doping

  • RFE/RL

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian officials said on August 3 that they will never accept a demand from world anti-doping authorities that they acknowledge that the state oversaw a mass sports doping operation and cover-up.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has said that public acceptance of the charge of state-sponsored doping made last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren is one of its conditions for fully reinstating Russia's drug-testing agency RUSADA.

McLaren said that, among other things, the Russian Sports Ministry was responsible for deciding which athletes to "save" by covering up failed drug tests, and it oversaw a plan to swap samples containing banned substances at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"There was no state program and there cannot be one. This didn't happen in Russia," Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on August 3. "We will not admit something that did not happen."

Some Russian Sports Ministry officials resigned last year after the McLaren accusations came out, but the government has never said they were responsible for any of the abuses alleged in the report, which covered more than 30 sports categories and more than 1,000 Russian athletes over several years.

"As for the report, we have repeatedly said that it contains certain contentious positions and provisions," said Vitaly Smirnov, who heads a Russian anti-doping commission, according to R-Sport news agency. "Undoubtedly, no one is going to accept this report."

Smirnov also disputed another condition WADA is putting on reinstating Russia's drug-testing agency -- that Russian law enforcement stop sealing off a store of urine samples in Moscow's former drug-testing laboratory.

"There's no way we can speed up this process," Smirnov told R-Sport.

The Russian Investigative Committee has been conducting an investigation of the doping matter and so far has concentrated on former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov -- who was the star witness cited in the McLaren report -- painting him as an immoral and unreliable figure who coerced otherwise clean athletes into taking drugs.

The dispute over WADA's demands prevents for now the full reinstatement of the RUSADA drug-testing agency, which Russia had hoped would occur in November.

WADA had previously partially restored some authority to RUSADA, allowing it significant independence, including the authority to coordinate drug testing.

But Russia's refusal to accede to WADA's demands is also blocking the reinstatement of Russia's track-and-field team, which has been suspended from international competition for nearly two years.

RUSADA's reinstatement is required before Russia can make a full return to track and field.

The world governing body for athletics confirmed on August 3 that the Russian athletics team remains suspended, though 19 Russians are being allowed to compete as "neutrals" in world championships that start on August 4 in London.

A congress of the International Association of Athletics Federations meeting in London voted overwhelmingly to maintain the suspension on the Russian team as Russia's athletics chief apologized for the team's doping record.

Russian Athletics Federation President Dmitry Shlyakhtin, in contrast to the other Russian officials on August 3, acknowledged "the need to say 'stop' to doping and corruption" in Russia.

Shlyakhtin also said he now welcomes whistle-blowers such as Yulia Stepanova and her husband, who have fled Russia and are living anonymously in the United States, "despite the ambiguity of perception of them in Russia."

"I am personally ready for a dialogue with the Stepanovs, [Andrei] Dmitriev, and other whistle-blowers. I am ready to support them," he said.

"We are convinced that along with testing, whistle-blowers are now one of the effective sources of information on violations, and this is very important."

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters
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