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Putin admits appointing Rodchenkov as head of Russian anti-doping lab was a 'mistake'

Among the findings mentioned in the McLaren report were allegations that bottles containing the doping samples were tampered with, including during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi
Gennady Rodchenkov Vitaliy Belousov/TASS
Gennady Rodchenkov
© Vitaliy Belousov/TASS

MOSCOW, December 14. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that appointing Gennady Rodchenkov, who now stays in the United States, to the post of the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory "was a mistake."

"You ask how did it happen that such person took charge of the anti-doping body? This was definitely a mistake of those, who appointed him," Putin said during his annual news conference.

"I know who did this, but what’s the use of talking about it now," the Russian president said.

Putin said it was indeed strange that a person, who had resided in the United States for years, returned to Russia.

"There is nothing strange that he was appointed (to the administrative post), but it is (strange) that he was suspected of doping distribution and, as far as I know, his sister received a court sentence for this," he said.

"However, it is more strange for me, for a person who worked with the intelligence for a long time, how he had managed to smuggle all this garbage from North America and Canada? How did he manage to clear Customs Services under such tight control? He had been doing it for years. It certainly raises various questions," Putin said.

The Russian president said that the appointment of Rodchenkov was a mistake, since "it is impossible working with people, who once attempted a suicide, no matter what the motive was."

"It means that they have psychological problems. It is inadmissible making decisions based on the testimony of such people," he said.

The reasoning part of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) findings, Putin continued, state that Rodchenkov "is an honest man and is under the supervision of the FBI."

"Firstly, who is here an honest man if he previously faced a court trial and it was established that he cheated… Secondly, he is under control and protection of the FBI. This is a minus and not a plus for us," the president said.

"It means that he is under control of American special services, but what are they doing with him and what substances they are feeding him to make him say what they need to hear?" Putin stated.

"Thirdly, he allegedly stated everything in his diaries. So what? When, where and how he was writing his diaries? Nobody knows and there is nothing to add."

The Russian president also spoke about accusations regarding scratches on necks of bottles with doping samples, which allegedly meant acts of tampering with samples.

"There were no claims at all against us," he said. "Where did scratches come from and when? We respect the international sports federations and, the World Anti-Doping Agency and most of all the International Olympic Committee, where we have many friends."

"But we understand that they are under pressure and intimidation," Putin said adding that "even if they are forced to do something they should be basing their findings on unbiased facts."

Grigory Rodchenkov and WADA investigation

The WADA Independent Commission, chaired by Canadian sports law professor Richard McLaren, delivered two parts of its report last year, namely in July and in December, on the alleged doping abuse and manipulations by Russian athletes and officials.

Among the findings mentioned in the McLaren report were allegations that bottles containing the doping samples were tampered with, including during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. The report claimed that some of the bottles had scratches, which meant they were previously opened and tainted samples were allegedly replaced with clean urine.

The WADA Independent Commission decided to launch its investigation last year following media reports based on testimony from a former head of Moscow anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov.

Rodchenkov told Western media in the spring of 2016 that Russian athletes largely used performance enhancing drugs at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi with the approval of the national sports authorities.

On the whole, the ex-doping official claimed that the Russian sports authorities allegedly prepared a special doping program for national athletes in order to win most of the medals at home Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Following Rodchenkov’s allegations and McLaren’s report, the IOC ordered a re-test of doping samples collected at the 2014 Olympics and the Russian Investigative Committee launched its own probe into statements made by Rodchenkov.