Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has admitted that his country still has drug problems amid an insistence they are doing everything possible to improve their system ahead of the completion of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report on alleged doping during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics later this month.
Mutko’s letter, addressed to WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, outlines the “significant amount of the work” conducted by the Ministry of Sport on behalf of the Russian State.
He asks for further cooperation from WADA in order to effectively eradicate doping in sport, but claims “clean” athletes who have not been implicated in any doping scandal should not be punished.
“We have created a strong regulatory framework, we have opened borders, have built the laboratory and we have established an independent anti-doping agency RUSADA,” Mutko says.
“All of this would be impossible without the support of the State.
“Fighting for fair sport, free of doping – a common cause to us both – would not be feasible without us taking these strong measures.
“We understand that our problems with doping have deep roots in the past and cannot be eradicated in a short period of time.
“Cultural change takes decades and sadly, we will continue to be facing some individuals who are determined to break the rules and regulations, to secure unfair wins and to seek personal enrichment.
“However, it is a personal subjective factor, which should not affect the sport in general, clean athletes, the anti-doping policy of the State carried out in accordance with the UNESCO Convention.”
Mutko’s comments, uttered in a similar vein to many others in recent months, can be interpreted as a last-ditch plea to WADA ahead of what many people expect will be an explosive report into Sochi 2014.
This will be based on allegations made by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow Laboratory who has since left Russia for Los Angeles, where he has already made multiple allegations published in the New York Times.
He claims that up to 15 Russian medal winners were involved in a clandestine operation in which urine samples were switched for clean ones.
Another WADA report last month into testing in Russia in 2016 highlighted numerous problems, including armed secret police impeding testing, fake urine samples being submitted and athletes running away from testers.
There have also been multiple claims that the Russian State, rather than cleaning up problems committed by others, are actually responsible for the doping system in place.
insidethegames understands that the IAAF suspension of Russia maintained last month is unlikely to be lifted while Mutko remains in his post.
“Understanding that the Laboratory and RUSADA report directly to WADA and their activity is carried out in accordance with international standards, breaking of which would make an anti-doping programme inefficient, we entirely supported all recommendations of WADA in the reformation of anti-doping system,” Mutko’s letter added.
“The Commission recognised Mr. Rodchenkov as a key player who developed a system of handling the samples and I followed the recommendations of WADA and immediately dismissed him.
“In accordance with the recommendations of WADA, we completely changed the leadership of RUSADA.
“In cooperation with WADA, we approved the ‘road map’, under which the entire doping control system is carried out by our foreign partners.
“The test planning of Russian athletes is now fully carried out by the UK’s anti-doping organisation (UKAD); samples are taken by foreign commercial organisations; the analysis takes place in WADA accredited laboratories.
“Key positions in RUSADA belong to the foreign experts of WADA, who guarantee full independent doping control.
“We are ready to work with you to build a transparent structure which makes it impossible to violate even in theory the international standards of WADA by the staff of RUSADA and the Laboratory.
“All the above measures are supported by the Russian State, they indicate our full openness and desire to purify sport from doping and restore confidence in Russian Anti-Doping policy.”
As it stands, no Russian-based athletes are expected to compete in athletics events at Rio 2016.
This followed an IAAF decision supported by WADA.
Russia has appealed this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and still hopes to send a 68 strong team competing under the Russian flag.
The WADA independent report into Sochi 2014, chaired by Canada’s Richard McLaren, is due to be completed by July 15 and published soon after.
‘We can confirm that the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, has written to the WADA President acknowledging the deep-rooted doping problems the country has encountered, and the difficulty with eradicating such a doping culture in a short space of time,” added a WADA statement.
“The Minister has also offered the Russian Federation’s full commitment to reforming the country’s anti-doping system, and acknowledged the steps that must be taken on Russia’s road to recovery.
“We can confirm that the WADA President has responded to Minister Mutko, recognizing some of the steps that have been taken towards ensuring an effective anti-doping system in Russia, but stating that much more still needs to be accomplished.”
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz