Russia has rejected as “groundless” accusations of widespread doping and corruption in athletics and promised a rapid response to avoid suspension from the 2016 Olympics.
“Until any proof has been put forward it is hard to accept any accusations as they seem rather groundless,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated Tuesday.
With fears the scandal might go far beyond Russia’s borders and involve other sports, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took the first concrete measure since Monday’s damning report from its independent commission by suspending Moscow’s heavily-criticised anti-doping laboratory.
Athletics was rocked by an avalanche of allegations including accusations of Russian “state-sponsored” doping contained in the 335-page findings.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe has given the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) “until the end of the week” to respond or risk possible suspension, with the IAAF Council set to meet in Monaco on Friday.
Despite the Kremlin’s dismissive reaction, ARAF assured Coe that it would contact the IAAF “in the very near future” outlining its anti-doping programme and “its reaction to the deductions and conclusions” in WADA’s report.
Calls for Russia, fourth in the 2012 London Olympics medal table, to be banned from next year’s Olympic Games are growing.
UK Athletics chief Ed Warner told BBC Radio 4: “Lord Coe… says that his (IAAF) council is meeting to consider sanctioning Russia and possibly to suspend them. My strong advice would be: you’ve absolutely got to do that.”
– True Olympic spirit –
That view was echoed by Australia’s national Olympic Committee.
“If Russia is not in Rio, I think the reputation of athletics will be enhanced because the public will know every athlete competing is clean and is competing in the true spirit of the Olympic Games,” the 2016 Australian Olympic team’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller said in Sydney.
The crisis engulfing the sport, long viewed as the flagship of the Olympic Games, comes hot on the heels of FIFA’s own corruption turmoil.
Worryingly, according to WADA, the athletics scandal is by no means confined to Russia nor athletics.
“Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport,” the report, triggered by German broadcaster ARD’s documentary last December, warned.
WADA’s independent commission chairman Dick Pound added: “We certainly do not think that Russia is the only country with a doping problem and we don’t think athletics is the only sport with a doping problem.
“It seems pretty clear from both the ARD programme and subsequent developments that Kenya has a real problem. It’s been very slow to acknowledge that there is a problem.”
ARD’s documentary claimed that a third of the 146 world and Olympic medals awarded between 2001 and the 2012 London Olympics, featuring 18 Kenyans, were tainted by suspicions of doping.
– Suspect samples –
And of 5,000 athletes of various nationalities tested during this period, 800 returned suspect samples, according to ARD.
Russian former athlete and doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova told ARD in comments included in WADA’s report: “There were swimmers, coaches and athletes from other sports, long distance skiers…”
Among its other recommendations, the WADA report called for five Russian athletes — including 800m Olympic winner Mariya Savinova — to be given lifetime bans, suggesting the presence of doped athletes had “sabotaged” the 2012 Games in London.
WADA meanwhile confirmed the provisional closure of the Moscow laboratory in the eye of the doping storm.
Pound’s report revealed that the laboratory’s director had ordered close to 1,500 samples to be deliberately destroyed.
WADA said it will set up a disciplinary committee to review the case and review the centre’s accreditation status following its suspension.
The suspension was described as “utter nonsense” by Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) director Nikita Kamayev.
He insisted that the agency worked “in full compliance” with WADA guidelines and said it would be sending its response to the accusations by November 18.
“Some people are stuck in the epoch of James Bond,” Kamayev told a press conference.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) added later Tuesday, however, that there was no reason to doubt anti-doping results from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, carried out at a WADA-accredited laboratory.
Given the lack of mention of irregularities by the WADA independent observer group, the international experts involved and the IOC itself, the latter said it had “no reason to question the credibility of the results of the anti-doping tests carried out at the Olympic Winter Games 2014”.
“However, the IOC, retaining all the doping samples for 10 years, will re-test samples in an appropriate way should substantial doubts arise. In any case, the IOC may re-test samples once new scientific techniques become available.”
Contrary to some expectations, Pound’s report did not address allegations of IAAF officials receiving bribes to cover up positive tests for athletes, including potential medal winners from past Olympic games.
Former IAAF president Lamine Diack, whom the IOC provisionally suspended as as an honorary member on Tuesday, was among three officials charged last week with corruption.
Pound said further evidence of misconduct, including among potentially “rogue” individuals within the IAAF, is expected by the end of the year.