Photographer: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Putin Says Politics Taint Sport as WADA Seeks Russia Olympic Ban

  • Sports Ministry, FSB manipulated doping tests, report finds
  • WADA wants athletes presented by Russia barred from Rio games

President Vladimir Putin said sport was being made a tool of “geopolitical pressure” after a damning report into drugs cheating prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency to call for a near total ban on Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympics.

“We are seeing a dangerous return to politics interfering with sport,” Putin said in a statement issued by the Kremlin Monday. “Yes, the form of interference has changed but the goal is the same: to make sport an instrument to apply geopolitical pressure” in ways that led to boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles games over the Soviet Union’s entry into Afghanistan, he said.

The president spoke after the independent report commissioned by WADA concluded that the Russian Sports Ministry oversaw a vast program to manipulate doping test results from 2011 to 2015. It’s “inconceivable” that Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was unaware of the efforts to hide positive doping results for athletes, the report’s author Richard McLaren said Monday during a press conference in Toronto. His investigation found that athletes’ positive urine samples were swapped out during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The report is an embarrassment for Putin, who personally oversaw preparations for the $50 billion games in Sochi, the most expensive in Olympic history. The country’s track-and-field team has already been barred from international competition due to doping concerns. The New York Times reported Sunday that anti-doping officials from at least 10 countries including the U.S. are planning to request that the Russian delegation be prevented from participating at the games in Rio de Janeiro, which begin Aug. 5.

‘Sample Swapping’

“The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB” and others, McLaren said. The FSB, or Federal Security Service, is Russia’s main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

There’s no place for doping in sport and Russian officials identified in the report as directly involved in the alleged drugs program will be suspended pending an investigation, Putin said.

WADA suggested banning all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee and the Russian Paralympic Comittee for competition in Rio, limiting participation to Russian nationals who compete under a neutral flag and “in accordance with very strict criteria,” according to a statement on its website. It also called for Russian government officials to be denied access to international competitions including the Summer Olympics.

While WADA said it’s not authorized to make such decisions on its own, it “expressed the firm wish that all responsible organizations exercise their responsibilities.”

Doped Athletes

The Russian Sports Ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee didn’t immediately respond to telephone calls seeking comment. Putin awarded Mutko and other key organizers of the Sochi Olympics with medals for “service to the fatherland” shortly after the games finished.

The International Olympic Committee plans a telephone conference on Tuesday to discuss how to react to the report, it said in an e-mailed statement. McLaren’s report didn’t make any recommendation.

McLaren said his team’s forensic and analytical work backed up testimony by whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, and proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” that officials protected doped athletes. A Moscow laboratory would falsely report positive samples and the FSB used a urine-swapping scheme during the Sochi Games to tamper with bottles holding contaminated samples, McLaren’s report said.

The methods were developed after Russian athletes won just three gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and finished in 11th place in the medal table, the country’s worst performance since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia took first place in the medal count in Sochi, winning 33 medals including 13 golds. Some medal winners were involved in doping at the Sochi Games, the report’s chief investigator Martin Dubbey said during the news conference.

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