‘Send aliens to check on us': Russian sports min defends lab, ready to talk doping crisis with WADA

Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko © Grigoriy Sisoev
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, facing international accusations of supervising a systemic doping program, has admitted Russia’s athletes could be banned from the Olympics. He offered to appoint a foreigner to head the country’s main testing lab.

“It’s possible we will be banned from Rio 2016, because some countries want to remove a direct rival or damage Russia’s international reputation. But if international sports bodies have any sports people’s interests at heart, this is not a possibility,” he told Russian media portal R-Sport. “Honest competitors, who are nothing to do with this scandal, shouldn’t have to suffer because of others who cheated.”

The Guardian has reported that the international athletics supervising body, the IAAF, could suspend Russia’s track and field team from sanctioned events as early as Friday, if it follows the recommendations of a damning report published by the World Anti-Doping Association last week.

The 323-page document, compiled by former WADA head Dick Pound over 11 months, accuses Russian sports officials, athletes, lab testers, and even security service agents, of colluding to repeatedly conceal doping violations, either for monetary gain, or to achieve better performances in international competitions.

Dick Pound © Christinne Muschi

Russia is due to present a rebuttal next week, and would have to prove its compliance before being re-admitted to the sport.

Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Moscow anti-doping center at the heart of the allegations, has been forced to resign, after being accused by investigators of destroying over 1,400 potentially compromising samples.

The entrance to the federal state budgetary institution ''Federal Scientific Center of Physical Culture and Sports". © Grigoriy Sisoev

“He himself understands that this is the best way out of the current crisis, with new claims appearing all the time,” explained Mutko.

However, the minister defended the Moscow lab, which has had its accreditation revoked.

“The lab has been re-certified three times, with WADA participation. Its work was also rated highly by international observers at the recent aquatic world championships in Kazan. If there are still qualms, I am not sure what to do. Let them invite aliens from space to re-check the lab,” said the minister.

Despite a threat to stop funding the lab if it is permanently stripped of its international accreditation, Mutko said Russia was “open to consultations with WADA,” and ready to appoint a foreign specialist as its head “if necessary.”

On Wednesday, Mutko, whose position as a member of FIFA’s executive committee is also under review, arrived in Sochi to brief President Vladimir Putin on the developing crisis.


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