MOSCOW, July 18. /TASS/. The ongoing doping scandal is a dangerous relapse of political interference in sports, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin press service on Monday.
"Now we are witnessing a dangerous relapse of politics’ interference into sports. Yes, formats of such interference have changed but its essence is the same - to make sports an instrument of geopolitical pressure, of forming a negative image of countries and nations. The Olympic movement which is playing a colossal uniting role for the humankind may once again be driven to the brink of a split," the statement says.
"Now, the so-called doping scandals have come into play, attempts are being made to extend the sanctions for the exposed doping abuse cases to all, including ‘clean’ athletes under the pretext of alleged protecting their interests," the statement says.
Unlike the 1980s, athletes have to undergo the strictest total anti-doping control both during competitions and in between them, the Russian leader noted. "And in the past six months, all Russian athletes have been undergoing anti-doping checks under control of the UK Anti-doping Agency and at foreign anti-doping laboratories as was recommended by WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency]," he stressed.
According to Putin, the latest developments, the strained atmosphere around international sport and the Olympic movement make one recall the situation of the early 1980s. "Back then, many countries of the West boycotted the Moscow Olympics citing as a reason deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union, in reply, boycotted the Games in Los Angeles. The pretext was an allegedly unsufficient security measures. As a result, many Soviet, U.S. athletes and athletes from other countries that were dragged into the mutual boycotting campaign, were stripped of a possibility to write down their names in the history of world sports. Years of labor and training had come to nothing. In other words, people’s lives were warped, with them becoming hostages to political confrontation. Later, some politicians of that time admitted that it had been a mistake," Putin said.
The Russian leader noted that the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission with accusations against Russian athletes are based on the testimony of a person with a scandalous reputation. The statement apparently refers to former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov.
"Accusations against Russian athletes are based on the testimony of one person, a man with a scandalous reputation," the Russian leader emphasized, adding that criminal proceedings were initiated against this man in 2012 over anti-doping legislation violations. However, "the evidence collected at that time proved to be insufficient, and the case was closed."
In June, the case against Rodchenkov was reopened on newly-discovered evidence, and one of his close relatives had already been convicted in Russia for illegal trafficking in anabolic steroids. "The question is whether the conclusions based solely on the testimony of people of this kind could be trustworthy and weighty," Putin said.
Several days ago, ahead of the official release of WADA findings, the U.S. Anti-doping Agency (USADA) along with similar agencies from a number of other countries, called to ban Russia’s entire team from the Rio Olympics. "What is behind such a hurry: an attempt to create a certain information background, to exert pressure? It looks like that USADA experts at least had access to the unpublished report or maybe were setting its tone and content. In such case, a national structure of one state is dictating its will to the entire world sports community," Putin noted.
Putin has pledged that Russian officials named in the WADA commission’s report will be temporary suspended from work until the investigation is over. "Officials named in the Commission’s report as direct perpetrators will be temporarily suspended from their posts until the investigation is over," Putin said. "But prior to making the final decision on the officials’ in question, we are asking WADA to provide a more detailed and objective information based on facts so that Russian law enforcers and investigative bodies could use it in their work. There is no doubt they will do their job to the end with an aim to take exhaustive measures to prevent the violations of the Russian legislation and the international commitments, which our country has undertaken."
According to the Russian leader, Russia has always had a clear position on doping-related matters: ‘There is no room for doping in sports.’ "It is a threat to the health and lives of athletes, it is discrediting of fair sports competition," the statement says. "We have been persistently taking efforts to uproot this evil. We have been improving our national legislation, openly cooperating with sectoral international organizations and the International Olympic Committee, and implementing our liabilities."
Russia, according to Putin, is well aware of the great importance and creative power of the Olympic movement and shares its values: mutual respect, solidarity, fairness, the spirit of friendship and cooperation. "Only this way we can preserve the unity of the Olympic family, to ensure development of world sports in the interests of establishing closer ties between cultures and nations. Russia is open for cooperation to achieve these noble goals," Putin stressed.