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Deputy PM urges Russian sports officials to be careful when speaking to foreign media

MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. Russian officials must carefully comb through their statements regarding doping abuse issues when communicating with foreign media outlets and should also request personal authorization prior to such interview’s final issuance, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Wednesday.

The New York Times published an article on Wednesday titled "Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation," in which the newspaper cited Anna Antselovich, the acting head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) as saying that "It was an institutional conspiracy," in regard to foreign accusations on the allegedly widespread doping abuse and manipulation in Russian sports.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov commented on the US newspaper’s report earlier in the day saying that Antselovich’s genuine statement must have been misinterpreted by the foreign press outlet.

"I have personal experience of dealing with such journalists and know very well that they have their own instructions to follow, therefore an interviewee should be very careful giving replies and also request personal authorization of his or her potential interview."

"They all want to frame the information from their own angle, purposely misinterpreting the words," the Russian deputy premier, who oversees issues regarding sports, tourism and youth policies in the country, said. "Anna Antselovich has already provided her excessive commentary regarding this issue."

Earlier in the day, RUSADA said in its official statement addressed for TASS that the remarks made by Antselovich in an interview with The New York Times were misinterpreted.

"In response to the publication in The New York Times, RUSADA states that the words of acting General Director Antselovich were distorted and taken out of the context," according to the statement from RUSADA.

"During Antselovich’s talk with (NYT) journalist Rebecca Ruiz, the acting general director made a remark that in his report of December 9, 2016 Richard McLaren had given up the phrase ‘state-sponsored doping system’ and used the words ‘institutional conspiracy,’ thus excluding the possible involvement of the country’s top leadership," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, Rebecca Ruiz took these words out of the context, thus creating an impression that the RUSADA leadership admits to the institutional scheme of a doping cover-up in Russia," the RUSADA statement said.

Starting this year, Russian athletes were under constant scrutiny due to numerous doping abuse accusations. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Commission, chaired by Canadian sports law professor Richard McLaren, conducted an investigation into the doping allegations in Russian sports and eventually came up with two parts to his report, the first delivered in July and the second in early December.

Following the first part of the report, which claimed systematic doping abuse and manipulations in the Russian sport had purportedly existed, the country’s track and field and weightlifting teams were banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The whole Russian Paralympic team was also barred from taking part in the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

The second half of the McLaren report confirmed the findings and allegations voiced in the first part, which also claimed that Russian state officials and the Federal Security Service (FSB) were involved in doping manipulations, particularly tampering with the doping samples collected at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi.

Two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that sanctions regarding those really involved in the Russian doping scandal, had been imposed and many officials were sacked. The premier added that it was more feasible to wait for the results from the Russian Investigative Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the alleged Russian doping scandal, to determine the next steps.