‘Information attack’: Russian Sports Minister on ARD claims of his ties to doping scandal
“This is a sort of an information attack. The aim of this and other publications is clear to me, it is to influence [the ruling] of the athletics committee on the eve of the meeting,” Vitaly Mutko said Wednesday. His comments followed a documentary on alleged doping in Russian sports which was to be aired by German public broadcaster ARD later Wednesday.
Three previous ARD reports on doping in Russia led to an investigation and the suspension of Russia's track and field team by the International Association of Athletics Federations [IAAF] in 2015. In the latest edition, called “Showdown for Russia,” the broadcaster reports that the country’s Sports Minister had covered up a positive doping test by a footballer from Russia's top league, citing documents allegedly supporting the accusation. It also claims it has videos of banned coaches continuing to train Russian athletes.
Dismissing the accusations, Mutko noted that they might in one way or another be connected with Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow and Sochi Olympic anti-doping laboratory. He was fired from his position in November 2015 following the doping findings, and Mutko warned the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at the time that his dismissal may lead to false accusations on his behalf.
“When [Rodchenkov] was dismissed from the laboratory, we told [WADA head] Craig Reedy that he’ll go straight to America, and he will start spreading accusations. But no one will ever prove them, not those that are against the state, not those targeting me,” the minister said.
In mid-May, The New York Times published an article alleging that dozens of Russian athletes, including 15 medalists of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, were doping. They cited Gregory Rodchenkov as their source, who claimed that he himself helped replace the samples of the doping tests in question.
“Honestly, I don't even want to comment,” Interfax quoted Mutko as saying. “This enormous interest in Russian sport by ARD and other media has already gone on for a year and a half.”
Mutko also noted that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating all the facts connected with the doping scandal, and might soon launch criminal cases.
The investigation procedures will be conducted in Russia, according to Vladimir Markin, head of the press service of Russia’s Investigative Committee. He also stated that representatives of foreign countries may be allowed to take part in the investigation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that all doping allegations have to be supported by evidence, while groundless accusations would be treated as “absolute slander.”
Russia was suspended from world athletics in November 2015, after WADA published results of an international investigation into the sportsmen of the Russian Athletics Federation, Moscow's anti-doping laboratory and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency [RUSADA]. It uncovered evidence of widespread doping and corruption in Russian sports.
The Russian Sports Ministry was ordered to reform its structure involved in doping offenses and to root out the cheats. The IAAF created an inspection team, to monitor progress on the reforms. The first results of their work were presented at the IAAF Council meeting in Monaco in March. The final decision on whether to bring back the Russian team into the IAAF will be adopted at the next meeting of the Council on June 17. If the team is not restored as a member of the IAAF, Russian track and field athletes will miss the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which are to be held in August 2016.