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Moscow slams doping allegations as ‘deliberate attack’

Moscow on Thursday slammed new allegations of state complicity in doping just days before the world athletics governing body is to rule on Russia’s Rio Olympics participation.

A programme aired on Wednesday on German public broadcaster ARD — based in part on documents from Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory — alleged that Russian authorities had covered up doping cases despite calls for reform.

Among other damning accusations, ARD alleged that Natalia Zhelanova, who advises sports minister Vitaly Mutko on anti-doping issues, was “permanently interfering (in the) everyday operation of anti-doping agency RUSADA” and that Mutko appeared to have been involved in covering up the 2014 positive tests of a footballer playing for FC Krasnodar.

“This is a deliberate attack against Russia,” Mutko told Russian news agencies.

Mutko said one of the objectives of the ARD programme was to “influence public opinion, show that what we have done in the past years (to fight doping) is not genuine”.

The latest allegations could undermine Russia’s efforts to overturn a ban on its athletics federation, which world governing body IAAF suspended in November over a bombshell report on state-sponsored doping and corruption in Russian track and field.

Moscow has been lobbying furiously to overturn the ban ahead of the August Olympic Games in Rio, announcing measures — including the introduction of compulsory anti-doping classes in schools — to change attitudes about the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Zhelanova on Thursday lashed out against Rodchenkov, who last month described an organised doping campaign during the 2014 Sochi Games involving at least 15 medallists, the sports ministry and the FSB security service.

“Starting in 2012 I tried to do everything to catch Rodchenkov for something serious to have legal grounds to fire him,” Zhelanova told R-Sport news agency. “Settling scores, what Rodchenkov is doing now, is wrong.”

Zhelanova also denied ARD’S claim that race walking coach Viktor Chegin was still training the national team despite having been slapped with a life-time ban for breaking anti-doping rules.

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