MOSCOW – The Russian government has begun fighting accusations that the country operated a vast state-sponsored doping program, even as the first punishment was handed down Tuesday.
A report Monday by a commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia of widespread, state-sponsored doping and coverups by sports officials and track and field athletes, including Olympic medallists . 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.
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President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the allegations detailed in the commission’s report are not supported by evidence, while an increasing number of senior officials hinted at a conspiracy to vilify Russian sports.
“As long as there is no evidence, it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Because of the report, Russia has been threatened with suspension from track and field competitions, including next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
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.
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The WADA commission says tests were routinely falsified at the lab to protect top Russian athletes. The facility is headed by Grigory Rodchenkov, who stands accused of concealing doping, extorting money from athletes and destroying 1,417 samples to stop WADA investigators from gaining access to them. Monday’s report recommended a lifetime ban for Rodchenkov.
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.
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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, the acting head of the Russian track federation, Vadim 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.