Russia’s anti-doping agency, Rusada, has for the first time acknowledged the country’swide-spread doping conspiracy.
Rusada’s acting director general, Anna Antseliovich, described the doping of hundreds of Russian athletes as an “institutional conspiracy” in a report published on “The New York Times” website Tuesday.
However, she rejected any notions that the doping campaign was “state-sponsored,” telling the US newspaper that no top government officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, were involved.
The Times reported that Russian lab directors tampered with urine samples and provided athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.
Vitaly Smirnov, a veteran Russian sports official appointed this year by Putin to oversee reforms to the country’s anti-doping system, also admitted to the paper that, “as a former minister of sport, president of the Olympic Committee – we made a lot of mistakes.”
However, citing documents leaked earlier this year revealing athletes’ medical records, Smirnov also accused the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of allowing high-profile Western athletes to use banned substances while at the same time coming down hard on their Russian counterparts.
“Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries,” Smirnov told “The New York Times.” “The general feeling in Russia is that we didn’t have a chance.”
Russian officials slammed the report in the Times later on Wednesday, with Rusada claiming that Antseliovich’s comments were “distorted and taken out of context.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the government “categorically denies” the allegations presented in the article.
WADA condemns Russian doping
WADA’s chief investigator, Richard McLaren, had in two previous reports accused Russian athletes of widespread doping. The first report, released in July, accused Russia’s Sports Ministry and Federal Security Service of being part of an elaborate scheme to manipulate drug tests during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
In the second report, released in early December, McLaren noted that more than 1,000 Russian athletes across 30 disciplines had taken part in a campaign devised by Sports Ministry officials to use banned substances during the 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as at the 2012 London Olympics and a host of other events.
McLaren, a Canadian law professor, noted in the report that Russia had adopted an “institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy.”
As part the findings in his investigation, McLaren published 1,166 documents including photographs, forensic reports and e-mails.
“For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians,” McLaren said.
Russia denied the doping allegationsRussia denies WADA doping accusations. Following the release of the second report, Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told the Russian TASS news agency that McLaren had failed to prove his claims.
Russia reeling from doping affair
On the back of McLaren’s first report, WADA recommended a blanket bad for all Russian athletes ahead of last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, declined to issue such a ban, instead leaving it to the governing bodies of the individual sports to decide whether Russian athletes should be allowed to compete. In the end, Russian Olympic teams were completely banned from the athletics and weightlifting disciplines and partially barred from several other events, including cycling and wrestling.
The entire Russian team was completely banned from taking part in the Paralympic Games.
The fallout looks likely to be felt in 2017. Russia was scheduled to host the speed skating world cup, the bobsled and skeleton world championships, and the biathlon world cup. However, all events have been withdrawn from the country.
Revelations continue to emerge
The IOC, in conjunction with international sporting federations, last week launched its own investigations into Russian athletes, reviewing doping samples going back to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
It has already launched disciplinary proceedings against 28 Russian athletes over “evidence of manipulation of one or more of their urine samples” during the games in Sochi. As a result, the FIS International Ski Federation suspended six Russian cross-country skiers, including Sochi gold medalist Alexander Legkov.
dm/sms (The New York Times, AFP, dpa)