Russia apologises and pleads for athletes to be allowed compete in Olympics

Russia apologises and pleads for athletes to be allowed compete in Olympics

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko has apologised for the doping scandal that has threatened his country's participation at this summer's Olympics and pleaded for their track and field athletes to be allowed to compete in Rio.

He regrets that those using banned substances were not stopped sooner but does not want clean athletes to be punished for the misdemeanours of others, saying that would be "unfair and disproportionate".

Russia's athletes are currently the subject of a suspension which was imposed following a World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned independent report into allegations of drug use. World athletics' governing body the IAAF is set to rule on the ban on June 17.

Mutko said the scandal had left Russia "ashamed" and that there will be nowhere for cheats to hide as they do everything within their power to eradicate the problem in the country.

In asking for his nation's athletes to be reinstated for the Olympics, Mutko explained that no-one will be under more scrutiny than Russian competitors as they undergo stringent controls by the IAAF and that experts are supervising their drug-testing procedures in Moscow.

Mutko wrote in a column for the Sunday Times: "In less than three months, one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles will begin in Rio de Janeiro: a festival of sporting excellence and excitement bringing together athletes from all corners of the globe.

"Except from Russia. As it stands, when the Olympic flame is lit in the Maracana stadium on August 5, our track and field athletes may not be there.

These are men and women who have sacrificed years of their lives striving to compete at the very highest level, who have dreamt of taking part in the Olympic Games, and who now face having their sacrifice wasted and their dreams shattered.

"The reasons for the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) being suspended from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have been well documented.

They are weighty. Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport for immediate benefits. Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.

"We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values."

He added: "It cannot be right that clean athletes should suffer for the behaviour of others. In no other walk of life would this happen.

"We do not deny having a problem in Russia, and we are doing everything possible at the state level to eradicate doping, including punishing athletes and coaches found to have violated anti-doping rules. But doping is a global problem, not just a Russian one.

"Before the Rio Games begin, our aspiring Olympians will undergo a minimum of three anti-doping controls carried out by the IAAF - along with any testing that they receive in all qualifying competitions.

"In addition, two international experts are now based in Moscow to supervise all activities of our anti-doping agency. Russia is going further than all other countries in the level of testing of our athletes.

No other nation's athletes will have been placed under the spotlight to the same degree as ours will be. Such an intense glare does not allow anywhere for cheats to hide. We fully support these measures as Russia has nothing to hide.

"We have done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated."

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