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WADA Says Has Confirmed Russia's Involvement In Doping Scandal

Craig Reedie (right), president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and Olivier Niggli, WADA's director-general
Craig Reedie (right), president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and Olivier Niggli, WADA's director-general

The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has obtained a database that confirms allegations of Moscow's involvement in doping by Russian athletes one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any such involvement.

The agency's director warned on November 10 that, with confirmation in hand, Russian leaders who continue to deny responsibility risk seeing their athletes get banned en masse once again from the Olympic Games, which are due to start in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

In the two years since WADA first leveled its allegations against Russia in a landmark report that found over 1,000 Russian competitors in more than 30 sports were involved in a conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over a period of five years, dozens of individual Russian athletes have been banned from the Olympics and other international sporting events.

Over 100 Russian athletes were banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the wake of the report. But Putin and other Russian officials have maintained there was no state involvement, insisting that the individual athletes caught doping and their coaches were responsible.

On November 9, Putin suggested that the United States was behind the allegations dogging Russia, saying that Washington wants to sow public discontent ahead of Russia's presidential election in March in retaliation for alleged Russian meddling in last year's U.S. presidential election.

"In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia," said Putin, who is widely expected to run and win the election though he has not as yet announced his candidacy.

"Russia never had and, I hope, will never have a system of state doping of which we are being accused," Putin said.

Putin's statement prompted a response from WADA Director-General Olivier Niggli in an interview with Reuters on November 10.

"It is certainly unfortunate that we keep having this kind of rhetoric, despite all the evidence that is now on the table," Niggli said.

"We've told the Russians the requirement is there for them to acknowledge the findings" in repeated WADA reports if they want to get fully reinstated in international sports, he told Reuters.

Accepting responsibility for the doping program was one of 19 conditions WADA laid down before it will agree to fully reinstate Russia's anti-doping laboratory.

Sports officials have said that failing to fulfill all of WADA's conditions would pose an obstacle for Russian athletes who want to compete in the upcoming Olympics, whose fate will be decided by the International Olympic Committee early next month.

WADA said on November 10 that its findings of widespread, state-sponsored doping were confirmed recently when it obtained the database of Russia's anti-doping laboratory containing the urine test results of Russian athletes from January 2012 to August 2015 -- the period when Russia allegedly had a doping and cover-up program.

The New York Times first reported about the database on November 10, and said the files had been leaked to WADA by a whistle-blower after Russian authorities refused to hand over the information to investigators.

WADA said it has given the International Olympic Committee the database evidence to consider as it decides whether Russian athletes will be able to compete in next year's games.

Six Russians have already been penalized for violations at the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and barred from next year's Olympics.

Anti-doping leaders are calling for a full ban of the Russian Olympic team, with the exception of Russian athletes who can prove they're clean. Those athletes would be allowed to compete as neutrals.

WADA President Craig Reedie called on Russian leaders to finally acknowledge Russia's doping history in light of the new evidence.

“This new intelligence serves to reinforce our requirement of Russian authorities that they too publicly accept the outcomes so that we can all move forward in rebuilding public trust and confidence in Russian sport,” he said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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