10 Nov 2015

Russia: athletics doping allegations are ‘groundless’

The Kremlin dismisses allegations that Russian athletes engaged in widespread, state-sponsored doping that sabotaged the London 2012 Olympic Games.

A spokesman for the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko insisted there was no basis for the allegations. “Until some evidence is presented… it is difficult to accept these accusations, they are quite groundless,” Dmitry Peskov said to reporters on Tuesday.

That came after the publication the previous day of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report accusing Russia of running a “state-sponsored” doping programme. The independent commission, headed by the former WADA president Dick Pound, added that five Russian athletes, five coaches and a doctor should be banned for life and called for Russia to be banned from international athletics.

It was also scathing about the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which – along with the Russian sporting and anti-doping authorities – was accused of “systematic failures” and “widespread inaction” that led to the London 2012 Olympics being compromised.

In addition, the report accused senior anti-doping figures of taking cash to cover up positive tests, as well as alleging that officials and their families were intimidated by undercover officers from the Russian secret service FSB. The report also said athletes were given warnings of when tests were due to take place.

After the report was published, WADA suspended Russia’s drug-testing laboratory in Moscow amid accusations that 1,417 samples were deliberately destroyed on the orders of its director. The laboratory has now stopped operating.

Russia could be banned from next year’s Rio Olympics after finishing fourth in the London 2012 medal table.

On Monday, the new IAAF president Lord Coe, who was the federation’s vice president at the time of the alleged doping, told Channel 4 News that the claims came as a shock to everyone at the federation – including to him.

He admitted the report was “utterly damning”, but insisted he was the right person to create a “sport that is transparent, accountable and responsible” in the aftermath of the scandal. Lord Coe has given Russia a week to respond formally to the allegations.