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Situation with doping in Russia very much politicized — sports minister

"Really, we have found ourselves in a very difficult situation," Mutko said
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko Sergey Fadeichev/TASS
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko
© Sergey Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko believes that the situation with doping in Russia is very much politicized, he told reporters on Saturday.

A new wave of doping abuse cases in Russian sport has been connected with the use of meldonium banned on 1 January 2016. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said earlier that 123 athletes had tested positive for meldonium. The names of at least 22 Russian athletes suspected for use of the banned substance have been made public, among them speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, swimmer Yulia Efimova and tennis player Maria Sharapova.

"Really, we have found ourselves in a very difficult situation," Mutko said. "If doping is mentioned, the situation is much politicized. There is a saying in Russia: ‘who is guilty and what to do?’ I said let me be the guilty one. But we will look into what to do. Now we should calm down and handle the situation.".

"An athlete should be punished fairly but now it turns out that they were taking meldonium unintentionally," Mutko said. "WADA has not carried out any research how long the substance stays in the human body. We filed a request and were answered that there had been no research."

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 substance is widely used in the clinical practice as well. Mildronate is widely used in the post-Soviet space for preventing heart disease.

The presence of this substance identified in the athlete’s blood during or between competitions is a violation of the current anti-doping rules as it was added to the WADA list of banned substances on 16 September 2015 effective starting 1 January 2016.

The percentage of suspended athletes will be the same

The percentage of Russian athletes suspended due to positive doping tests will be the same by the end of 2016 as three or five years ago, Mutko said.

"I assure you that by the year's end the percentage of athletes suspended over positive doping tests will be the same as 3-5 years ago," Mutko said. "It will not be at the same level as in the U.S., France or Italy... It will be around one percent of the testing base."

"The rules of anti-doping control are very complicated," the minister said. "The violations are unnecessary to be done willingly, some are done unwillingly. The whole world will at last see that Russian victories are not built on this. The female handball players who have qualified (for the Olympics) are tested every other day. The water polo players who beat Greece today and came out for the Olympics are tested every other day. How long should it be talked about? It is a deceit. Today manipulations are impossible. There is total control. Russia’s borders are open."

"Everybody should be checked up before the trips"

World policy related to the fight against doping abuse should be equidistant for all countries, without any exceptions, Mutko said.

"We are not the United States, or the NBA, or the NHL. We all are open both in volleyball and in basketball. We are a different country. Nobody does doping tests at those (U.S.) leagues and boxing associations," Mutko said.

"They (U.S. athletes) do doping tests once every four year, when coming to the Olympics. Everybody should be checked up before the trips. Certainly, we wish the system of doping control would be equidistant," he said.

"Nowadays we are working at the Council of Europe that comprises 47 nations," he went on to say. "In 2013 the Council of Europe acknowledged Russia’s anti-doping policy as absolutely satisfactory. Russia must not be assessed by public organizations. Associations of states should do it. So in 2013, 47 states said that Russia had no problems with the organization. So we should calm down and give up tormenting ourselves.".