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Putin Orders 'Open' Inquiry Into Russia Athletics Doping Claims

  • Anyone found doping must be held accountable, Putin says
  • Problem isn't confined to Russian sport, president says

President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to conduct an internal investigation into international allegations of a systematic doping program involving Russia’s track-and-field athletes and coaches.

Sports Minister Vitaliy Mutko and all Russian sports officials should offer “the most open and professional collaboration with international anti-doping agencies,” Putin said late Wednesday in Sochi, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a transcript on the Kremlin’s website. “We in Russia must do everything to eliminate this problem.”

Doping “isn’t only Russia’s problem, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, these questions should be addressed,” Putin said. Russian athletes must be protected against using illegal drugs as “sports events and competitions are attractive only when they are fair,” he said.

Russian athletics is facing its gravest crisis after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission found “organized efforts on the part of many senior coaches and officials, inside and outside Russia, to promote doping,” in a report published Monday that also accused the country’s Federal Security Service of interfering with a Moscow laboratory set up to conduct drugs testing. Officials from the International Association of Athletics Federations meet on Friday to consider WADA’s recommendation to suspend Russia from competition, potentially threatening its participation in the 2016 Olympics next summer.

Anyone found to have violated existing rules against doping must be held responsible, Putin said. “Responsibility must always be personal,” he said. “It’s absolutely certain that athletes who are far from doping, who have never touched drugs and do not do this, should not have to answer for those who break the rules.”

Russia understands some issues raised by WADA and is ready to improve them, though others need to be clarified, Mutko told reporters in Sochi after the meeting with Putin. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called WADA’s allegations “unfounded” on Tuesday, saying the charges should be backed up with evidence.

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