GORKI /Moscow Region/, March 31. /TASS/. As of today, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has officially registered 30 cases of Russian athletes’ abuse of performance enhancing drug meldonium, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Thursday.
"WADA registered 30 cases of Russian athletes’ doping abuse, while a total of 126 cases were registered worldwide," Mutko said.
"The most important at the moment is that we have assumed full control over the situation," he said. "It is necessary to do everything possible to safeguard our athletes from being caught anymore using this substance. It will be certainly complicated. You can see the calendar for yourselves and there will be thousands of competitions, championships and tournaments in the upcoming time."
Russian sports was hit early this month by a new case in a chain of doping-related scandals after some of the country’s athletes tested positive for banned substance meldonium.
The drug meldonium (mildronate) was included in the list of preparations banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency from January 1, 2016, after which several Russian athletes tested positive for the banned substance.
The presence of the meldonium substance in the athlete’s blood during and between competitions is a violation of anti-doping rules. The substance belongs to S4 class on the WADA blacklist (hormones and metabolic modulators).
On March 16, Russian President Putin lashed at the country’s sports officials at a government meeting over doping scandals that engulfed Russian athletics.
"It is obvious that our national anti-doping legislation needs to be seriously improved, if we have such setbacks, and it is necessary to punish those who prompt athletes to use banned preparations," Putin said, urging to take international practice into account.
The Russian president 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.
Experts say it is highly possible that Russian national athletics teams will be suspended from the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil this year following the chain of high-profile doping scandals in Russian sports.
Russian Sports Minister Mutko also told journalists on Thursday that Russia has no plans at all lowering its high Olympic ambitions for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil despite a series of doping scandals.
"Every athlete is valuable for us," Mutko said. "We will keep providing support for every athlete clean of doping allegations. As of yet, there are no significant losses for out [Olympic] team besides [swimmer] Yulia Efimova and [tennis player] Maria Sharapova."
"I can tell you that we [Russia] have no intentions of lowering our Olympic ambitions or plans for the Games," Mutko said.
Russia’s tennis star and former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova told a news conference in Los Angeles early this month that recent doping tests revealed the presence of performance enhancing drug meldonium in her body system. Hearings into her case are underway.
Yulia Efimova, who is Russia’s 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in swimming, the four-time world champion and many times winner of European tournaments, announced early last week that her doping sample taken in February had showed the presence of meldonium.