Russia’s sports minister hit back Thursday at a damning World Anti-Doping Agency report released on the eve of an IAAF decision on whether to readmit Russia in time for the Rio Olympics.
WADA highlighted hundreds of attempts this year to test Russian athletes being thwarted by Russian intelligence officers and bureaucratic obstacles.
With the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to meet in Vienna on Friday to vote on Russia’s case, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted all reforms demanded by the world body have been carried out.
Russia, suspended since November over accusations of “state-sponsored” doping, has been lobbying furiously for its reinstatement in IAAF. But the latest WADA report came as a new blow to its campaign.
“At the end of the day we have fulfilled all the criteria, everything that they demanded of us. All the athletes are under control,” he told Interfax news agency.
“There were 100 criteria presented to us, and in my opinion we have fulfilled them all,” he said.
The head of Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov said that there are about 100 track and field athletes on Russia’s Olympic team and barring them from Rio would be a “blow to the Olympic movement.”
“The Olympic Charter is based on the premise that everyone should participate,” he told Echo of Moscow radio station, adding he hoped that IAAF makes an “objective, balanced decision” Friday.
Athletes have criticised the blanket federation ban, saying clean competitors should not assume collective responsibility.
“I do not think it is fair to forbid me and other clean Russian athletes to compete – athletes who have repeatedly proved they are innocent of cheating,” star pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who is training for her final Olympic Games, wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in the New York Times.
– ‘Pressure’ on IAAF –
Mutko said he would read the latest WADA report and pledged to provide doping control officers with access to athletes across the country.
“We will do everything possible for doping inspectors to visit any city, even a closed city,” Mutko said, referring to Russian cities with controlled public access due to secret installations.
Mutko said he would write to WADA president Craig Reedie to tell him: “If you need government help, inform us, don’t wait until the last minute.”
The WADA report released Wednesday said 736 tests requested between February 15 and May 29 were “declined or cancelled”.
It said athletes use Russia’s military cities — which are off limits without a special pass — as their location, in order to deter test planning.
It said “armed FSB agents” intimidated doping officers trying to access military cities, and that they initiated a process to gain access in February but never received official permits from the authorities.
Mutko advised doping officers to “make lists in advance” to visit such locations in order to get the required passes.
As Russia awaits the IAAF decision, Mutko spoke of “pressure” on the IAAF Council.
“There is constant pressure now on the commission and the IAAF council,” he said.
The minister also hinted at possible legal action if Russian athletes are not reinstated.
“I think we must move to the legal plane,” he said. “I don’t rule out that we will make this move in the near future.”
Russia could take any IAAF decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The latest WADA bombshell, which was compiled with the help of UK Anti-Doping, whose doping officers went to Russia, provides further ammunition for critics who have called for the IAAF to maintain Russia’s suspension.
The IAAF suspended Russia from competition in November after an WADA report which detailed a systematic doping program and corruption by sports officials.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe has said the ban will only be lifted if there is clear evidence of a “verifiable change both in anti-doping practice and culture.”
In its bid to overturn the ban, Russia has announced a raft of reforms including the introduction of compulsory anti-doping classes in schools to reform attitudes toward the use of performance-enhancing drugs.