The Kremlin yesterday dismissed allegations that Russia had run a sophisticated doping programme at the last winter Olympics as treacherous slander, calling the ex-head of the country’s anti-doping laboratory “a turncoat.”
Two Russian winter sportsmen named as cheats by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former lab chief who has since fled to the United States, also denied wrongdoing, saying the charges were part of a campaign to besmirch the name of Russian sport.
Russia, already battling to overturn a ban on its athletes taking part in this year’s Rio summer Olympics, has been thrown on the defensive after a New York Times report cited Rodchenkov as saying he ran a doping programme at the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics which included at least 15 medal winners.
The allegations complicate Russia’s efforts to distance itself from previous accusations of state-sponsored doping made by an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission, pile pressure on Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, and are likely to make it harder for Moscow to overturn the Rio athletics ban.
“These allegations look absolutely groundless,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said yesterday: “They are not substantiated by any trustworthy data, they are not backed by any sort of documents. All this simply looks like slander by a turncoat.”
Asked about the prospects of Russian track and field athletes being allowed to compete in Rio, Peskov said: “We hope everything will be fine.”
An International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)taskforce is due to report on Russia’s anti-doping progress on June 17 before the sport’s governing body votes about whether the global ban from track and field events can be lifted to allow Russian athletes to compete in Rio.
The head of the taskforce said he was aware of the New York Times report but could not comment on the allegations.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s athletes could compete at the Rio Olympics despite the World Anti-Doping Agency’s concerns over its anti-doping efforts, world athletics’ governing body the IAAF has suggested.
WADA declared Kenya non-compliant with its code on Thursday following a recommendation by its compliance review committee (CRC), casting doubt on the country’s participation in this summer’s Olympic Games.
The decision was referred to the International Olympic Committee for consideration and action.
But yesterday athletics’ world governing body suggested a ban from Rio is unlikely, saying “Kenyan athletes remain eligible to compete nationally and internationally”.
A statement from the IAAF read: “As far as Kenya’s participation is concerned across all sports at the Olympic Games in Rio, the IAAF notes that WADA has referred its decision on non-compliance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UNESCO for their consideration and action.
“During the monitoring process under IAAF Rule 30.6, Kenyan athletes remain eligible to compete nationally and internationally.
“Kenya’s elite athletes are the most tested athletes of any country by the IAAF.
“Since October 1, 2015, 621 tests (279 in competition, 342 out of competition) have been carried out by the IAAF on Kenyan athletes.”
Having missed two deadlines to show it was addressing serious worries about its anti-doping efforts, Kenya passed legislation last month to create a new national anti-doping agency.
But that has not been enough to satisfy WADA. It would be up to the IOC to decide whether to ban Kenya from the Rio Games, but Spain and Mexico are non-compliant and have not been banned from the Olympics.
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