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Russian sports minister praises national team’s performance at Olympics

The minister says sport in Russia has great reserves
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko  Vladimir Gerdo/TASS
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko
© Vladimir Gerdo/TASS

MOSCOW, August 22. /TASS/. Russia’s national team at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro performed like parts of a "single mechanism," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Monday.

The Russian team wrapped up its performance at the Games taking fourth place in the unofficial team standings, winning 56 medals - 19 gold, 18 silver and 19 bronze.

"This was a long and competitive race, many athletes brought us joy. It was vital that at the Olympics the team was united, operating like a single mechanism… their performance was quite successful, and overall the team did great," Mutko stated.

The sports minister noted that unfortunately Russia was not represented in three sports - track and field athletics, weightlifting and rowing amid the doping scandal.

"That’s why it was very difficult to compete as equals with other countries (the US, China, the UK). But in general the team performed well, winning medals in 18 sports, and this is serious groundwork for the future," he declared.

Some historic victories were achieved in various sports, Mutko noted, pointing out the accomplishments of Russia’s fencing team, judokas, synchronized swimmers and rhythmic gymnasts. 

"The handball players scored a spectacular triumph, making us take a new look at this sport," he said.

Russian sport has great reserves 

The minister went on to say that sport in Russia is not yet at a proper level but has already cleared a certain barrier and has great reserves.

"We have cleared a certain barrier and reached a certain level. Of course, to say that we’re at a proper level means calming down. But we have great reserves, we have tasks and goals and they have been clearly defined by the country’s president and the sport development program. We’re doing everything for the development of the sport of great achievements by holding various tournaments and are involving an ever greater number of people into physical exercises and we have the task to involve up to 40% of the population into sports by 2020," Mutko said.

"We need to involve another 10-15 million people into sports on a regular basis while already 42 million people are already doing this regularly," the sports minister said.

"This is enormous work to create infrastructure, hold mass events and introduce physical training tests. As for the sports of great achievements, we have reached a certain level but we still have to carry out enormous work," Mutko said.

‘We have done serious work over the past eight years for creating the necessary infrastructure, established nine federal centers and a tenth center will open soon in Crimea and this actually closes gaps in all kinds of sports," the sports minister said.

"In the coming years, we’ll create another 12 such regional centers. We have more or less appropriate infrastructure and we have reached a certain level. But there is still a problem in the methods of training, especially in the cyclical kinds of sports and there are issues of scientific and methodological, as well as medical and biological support," the Russian sports minister said.

Russia made certain steps in anti-doping fight

Mutko said only blind or ill-wishing persons can’t see Russia’s steps to fight doping abuse.

"We can’t get over doping problems yet. I very much regret that many coaches and athletes themselves are convinced that you can’t win without doping. And this is the main mistake at such a level. It is based on the fact that they don’t trust their doping control system and see that it has some faults, double standards," the Russian sports minister said.

"In this context, we have to carry out large-scale work. We have already made a certain step and only a blind person or an ill-wisher can’t see it. But we still have to carry out enormous work," Mutko said.

The Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chaired by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren released a report on July 18 on the results of its probe into the accusations of doping and manipulation of tests by Russian athletes and officials at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

The report claimed that the commission had found evidence that Russia’s Sports Ministry and the Center for the Training of Russian National Teams and the Federal Security Service had covered up a doping program in Russian sports.

The McLaren report claimed that the method of swapping doped samples for clean urine had been used in 643 cases in Russia from 2012 to 2015, involving athletes from 30 sports disciplines.