Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko responded in scathing fashion over the latest anti-doping allegations to hit the country’s sports organisations and called the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) own process into question when addressing the Confederations Cup closing news conference in St Petersburg.
Germany face Chile in the final of the tournament on Sunday, a dry run of sorts for the Russia 2018 World Cup and FIFA president Gianni Infantino praised the hosts on account of feared issues with hooliganism, violence and racism being absent.
But the spectre of doping continues to dog Russian sport.
Solicitor Richard McLaren published a report in December last year claiming that, between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,000 Russian sportspersons benefited from a highly organised scheme in which the results of positive doping tests were covered up or manipulated.
McLaren described the programme as corruption “on an unprecedented scale” and it led to a ban on Russian athletes competing at the Olympics in Rio last year.
FIFA said last weekend that it was still investigating whether this alleged conspiracy took in footballers after the Mail on Sunday claimed all 23 members of Russia’s squad at the 2014 World Cup were “people of interest” in the probe prompted by the McLaren Report.
Two IOC commissions are currently examining the findings of the WADA investigator – an inquiry commission chaired by Samuel Schmid to address claims of institutional conspiracy in Russian sport and a disciplinary commission under Denis Oswald addressing the question of sample manipulation.
This week McLaren told German broadcaster ARD that he feared the latter could be a factor in the 155 samples related to Russian footballers that were reported to FIFA.
After Infantino underlined the fact of no Russian footballers having returned positive tests at Brazil 2014 or Euro 2016, Mutko took the floor to address the concern that infamous dopers such as Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones never actually failed tests.
“During, before and after the games and competition we are taking blood samples. We have to react to these claims all the time,” he said.
“You are invited to come here. If I perform a Russian dance here in front of you, will you stop asking these questions?
“Russian sports is among the most elite sports in the world so let us trust this anti-doping system. Our athletes are tested every time independently and yet still you don’t trust.
“We take a WADA accredited laboratory, we invite them. They come here, they take samples. This happens everywhere in the world.
“For the time being there is no evidence of doping. We are investing a lot of money into sports. We don’t need doping to win some bronze medal that doesn’t mean much.”
On the issue of allegedly tampered samples at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the former sports minister and current president of the Russian Football Union pointed the finger at what he viewed as a sub-standard WADA operation.
“In Sochi, there were 22 independent experts when all the sample were taken out of Russia. We don’t know what they did with them and then, several years later, people start talking about bottles being changed for others,” he said.
“The system accredited by WADA before the Olympic Games did not work well. We have signed a roadmap with WADA now and have analysed the conclusion made by WADA.”
Mutko added that retrospective punishment for doping offences by the IOC reflected poorly on the current system.
“This is a contradictory situation,” he said. “A person who gets a medal is tested for doping and the sample is negative. Then, five years later we find out there was doping in his or her blood.
“What methods are we using? How can you test a person five years after and find there is doping in their blood? This is not a good system.”
Infantino was at pains to point out tests carried out on Russian footballers had been done so independently and outside of their native country but maintained sanctions would be implemented if the allegations against the forthcoming World Cup hosts are proven.
“We’ve all been seeing the different reports,” he said. “We are collecting the information and if there are any anti-doping rules violations there will be measures taken, as it has been in the past for Russia and for any other country in the world.”
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