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Russian sport minister says he'll resign if he decides he's to blame for doping scandals

March 22, 13:35 UTC+3
According to presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko will continue fulfilling duties in the current post
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Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

© Sergei Savostianov/TASS

MOSCOW, March 22. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Tuesday he was ready to submit a letter of resignation from his post in case he decides to assume a personal responsibility for the chain of doping scandals involving national athletes.

"I am well aware of the scale of my responsibilities," Mutko told journalists. "You have been asking me this question [about resignation] since [2010 Winter Olympics in] Vancouver. I will resign if I decide that it is me to blame."

"I have upped salaries, increased budgets of national teams as well as their sizes," he said. "However, national teams are governed by federations. What else can I do?"

"It is up to federations to draw conclusions. They [the federations] govern the teams in a daily regime," Mutko said.

"What about biathlon? [New] training bases were erected, everything necessary was provided," he said. "Should I personally get involved in the training and coaching process? Everyone should bear a personal responsibility."

Russian biathletes showed the poorest ever performance at world tournaments with no medals won in 11 races at the 2016 World Championship, hosted earlier in the month by Norway’s Holmenkollen.

The previous anti-record was set at the championships in Germany’s Ruhpolding in 2012, when Russian biathletes won only two bronze medals. In 2013, Russian biathletes won one bronze and one silver medals at the world championships in Nove Mesto.

"I am calm as I do my work and I love my work," Mutko, who also holds the post of the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said. "I give everything I can to my work, to athletes, coaches and specialists. But what else can I do?"

Kremlin: Mutko to stay in his post

According to presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko will continue fulfilling duties in the current post.

Two weeks ago Russian sports was hit by a new case in a chain of doping-related scandals after some of the country’s athletes tested positive for banned substance meldonium.

"There are no comments to make regarding this particular case," Peskov told journalists. "Mutko continues working as the Russian sports minister."

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sports Minister Mutko repeatedly stated "his readiness in the past to personally assume all responsibility for the recent doping developments."

"However, let us not forget that the president ordered a thorough investigation to establish the cause of the scandal with meldonium," Peskov said. "Under the current situation we need to calmly restore the chain of the developments in order to insure our athletes against similar cases in the future."

Last Wednesday, Russian President Putin lashed at the country’s sports officials at a government meeting over the doping scandal that has engulfed Russian athletics.

The Russian president demanded that the government take measures to improve the national anti-doping legislation. He also instructed the government to work out a program aimed at raising the efficiency of anti-doping measures.

"I’m requesting the government to work on the issues of raising the efficiency of the national struggle against doping and submit the relevant proposals," the Russian president said.

On Monday, a draft law stipulating a financial fine of between 30,000 and 50,000 rubles ($440-740) for violations of doping regulations in sports was submitted with the Russian parliament’s lower house.

The stipulated fine will be in force not only to an athlete, who violated regulations on the abuse of performance enhancing drugs, but to doctors and coaching staff as well in case they were involved in the registered doping use case.

Two weeks ago Russian sports was hit by a new case in a chain of doping-related scandals after some of the country’s athletes tested positive for banned substance meldonium.

Athletes use meldonium (mildronate) to increase resistance to high strenuous activity and physical strain during training sessions as well as for easing emotional, nervous and psychological stresses at competitions. The formula is also used for preventive treatment of heart problems predominantly in the Commonwealth of Independent States. WADA blacklisted meldonium as a prohibited drug as of January 1, 2016. The formula refers to S4 class in the WADA list (hormones and metabolism modulators).

The presence of the meldonium substance in the athlete’s blood during and between competitions is a violation of anti-doping rules.

Over 100 athletes worldwide have already tested positive for meldonium, including Russian athletes. Among them are speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, biathlete Eduard Latypov, cyclist Eduard Vorganov, figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, tennis player Maria Sharapova, short-track skaters Semion Elistratov and Ekaterina Konstantinova, volleyball player Aleksandr Markin and rugby players Alexey and Alena Mikhaltsov.

As TASS has learnt, this substance has been found in the doping samples of Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva, Russian athletes Nadezhda Kotlyarova, Olga Vovk, Gulshat Fazletdinova and Andrey Minzhulin and Greco-Roman wrestlers Evgeny Saleev and Sergey Semenov.

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