Putin to meet track coach as Russia faces doping scandal
MOSCOW (AP) Stung by a report accusing Russia of a vast state-sponsored doping program, Vladimir Putin will meet with the head coach of the country’s track federation on Wednesday.
A report Monday by a commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia of widespread doping and cover-ups affecting track and field athletes, including Olympic medalists. It said that agents from the FSB intelligence service interfered with the work of a doping lab during last year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.
Russian officials fought back Tuesday against the report, saying it failed to prove its main points and suggesting the existence of a conspiracy to vilify Russia.
”As long as there is no evidence, it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the report.
Because of the report, Russia has been threatened with suspension from track and field competitions, including next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Russian track federation said head coach Yuri Borzakovsky, a former Olympic 800-meter champion, will meet Putin at a sports center in Sochi on Wednesday.
While the meeting between Putin and Russian sports leaders was planned as a discussion of preparations for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, acting federation president Vadim Zelichenok told The Associated Press the doping allegations could be discussed.
”There may be a conversation, but not necessarily within the framework of the main meeting,” Zelichenok told the AP by telephone.
In the first move to implement a recommendation made in Monday’s report, WADA revoked the accreditation of the country’s anti-doping lab in Moscow. That blocks all testing of samples, which will now be transported to another WADA-accredited lab outside Russia.
Hours later, lab director Grigory Rodchenkov resigned, according to state news agency Tass.
The WADA commission had demanded a life ban for Rodchenkov, who was accused of covering up positive doping tests, extorting money from athletes and destroying 1,417 samples before inspectors visited.
Rodchenkov ”took the decision to resign to take all the negatives away with him,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Tass.
The WADA commission says tests were routinely falsified at the lab to protect top Russian athletes. The Moscow-based lab handled drug samples from the Sochi Olympics.
Nikita Kamaev, executive director of the Russian anti-doping agency known as RUSADA, said Tuesday that Rodchenkov’s lab had ”ceased functioning” but said RUSADA is still operational.
”The Russian agency completely complies with the requirements of WADA at the current time,” Kamaev said, adding that the agency is preparing a detailed response to all issues raised against it in the WADA report.
The Russian agency faces possible suspension by WADA after the report, which accused it of numerous failures in its testing program, including notifying athletes ahead of time for supposedly surprise tests, colluding with coaches and allowing some banned athletes to continue competing.
Kamaev is one of a number of Russian officials to say the report is biased against Russia.
”Some of the issues have a particular acuteness and are, if you like, politicized,” he said, refusing to go into further detail.
Allegations that FSB agents infiltrated the testing process are the product of an ”inflamed imagination” and more suited to a spy film, Kamaev added.
Earlier in the day, Zelichenok said in comments quoted by Russian media that the report contains ”an element of material made to order,” without specifying who might have manipulated the report.
Zelichenok also appealed to the sport’s governing body to show ”prudence” and allow Russian track and field athletes to compete at next year’s Olympics.