Russia Pleads Against Rio Olympic Ban on Athletes for Doping

Updated on
  • Sports Minister Mutko argues Russia shouldn’t be singled out
  • IAAF to rule Friday on Russian track-and-field team competing

Russia pleaded against a potential ban on its track-and-field team from competing in the Olympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro over revelations about officially sanctioned doping.

“Clean athletes should not be punished for the actions of others,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday in an open letter to International Association of Athletics Federations President Sebastian Coe. “Russia is doing everything possible to ensure our athletes are part of a clean and fair Olympic Games.”

The IAAF is expected to announce its decision following a council meeting in Vienna later on Friday. The judgment threatens to become the latest blow to Russian sports after the country’s soccer team was fined and given a suspended disqualification from the Euro 2016 championship for crowd disturbances this week. The Russian track-and-field team has been banned from competition since last year after the World Anti-Doping Agency found systematic attempts by athletes, coaches, doctors and Russia’s Federal Security Service to falsify test results. 

WADA documented continuing violations in a report released on Wednesday. Since the U.K.-based anti-doping agency took over testing in February, because its Russian counterpart lost its accreditation, athletes were unavailable for screening in 73 of 455 tests conducted through the end of May, it said.

Closed Cities

The report said athletes who couldn’t be tested often gave closed military cities as their locations. When the drug testers tried to access these sites, armed police threatened them with expulsion, it said. WADA also highlighted one incident in which an athlete attempted to smuggle in a urine sample, which leaked. She then tried to bribe the drugs tester.

Mutko assured the IAAF that Russia has been overhauling its anti-doping program since November 2015 and argued that the country’s athletes should not be singled out as the only ones to be punished “for a problem that is widely acknowledged to go far beyond our country’s borders.”

The Kremlin has dismissed reports of government involvement, including a German TV report this month that accused Mutko of participating in the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping program, as unsubstantiated slander based on testimony from people who’d fled Russia.

“We are categorically against any doping,” President Vladimir Putin said on Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “There wasn’t any support for violations in sports at the state level in Russia, it’s not possible.”

The International Olympic Committee has requested an investigation on charges of Russian doping during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. If the allegations are proven, it would represent an “unprecedented level of criminality” that could lead to additional suspensions, chairman Thomas Bach said in May.