News & Politics

Russian Sports Minister Pleads for Athletes' Participation in Rio Olympics

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko issued a plea to the International Association of Athletics Federations to reinstate the Russian athletics federation so its athletes can compete in the Rio Olympics this August.

Russian athletes were banned from international competitions when the independent commission created by the World Anti-Doping Agency discovered widespread cheating by Russian athletes.

Reuters:

“Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches… We are ashamed of them,” Mutko said in his strongest comments over the doping scandal.

“We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.”

Russia, second behind the United States in the athletics medal table at the 2012 London Olympics, is banned from all athletics after an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed widespread doping.

WADA President Craig Reedie told BBC radio in an interview on Saturday that it was “highly unlikely” that Russia’s anti-doping authority would be declared compliant with world sports rules in time for Rio.

Russia has to convince the IAAF that it has put in place measures to show improvement in its anti-doping operation and a “change of culture”.

“We have done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated. It would be unjust to demand all these changes and measures, witness them happen and then still punish Russia’s athletes. We believe passionately in the Olympic spirit and values,” Mutko said.

Mutko’s ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee were not available for immediate comment.

All I can say is, it’s about time. For more than half a century, Russia has been the prime cheater in international sports, although East Germany usually gave them a run for their money. Both countries had state-sponsored programs to distribute performance-enhancing drugs during training and blood doping during competitions.

WADA finally caught them last November when it was discovered Russia’s athletic federation lab was switching urine samples.

Washington Post:

Among the report’s findings:

●Grigory Rodchenko, the head of Moscow’s anti-doping lab, admitted he ordered the destruction of 1,417 test samples in order to thwart WADA’s investigation.

●Russian authorities operated a second, “shadow” laboratory on the outskirts of Moscow, with identical testing facilities as the WADA-sponsored one, in order to assist in “the cover-up of positive doping results.” According to the report, it is suspected that Russian athletes were pre-screened at the shadow lab to make sure they passed before the samples were sent on to the official one.

●While some athletes participated willingly in the doping, others who resisted “were informed they would not be considered as part of the federation’s national team for competition.” One Russian marathoner told WADA investigators she was forced to pay a percentage of her earnings to representatives of Russia’s track and field federation to help her avoid positive doping tests.

●The Russian testing lab used during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was infiltrated by agents of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, who posed as lab engineers and who “actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation” on the staff and “compromised” the lab’s integrity. It was part of a wider pattern of “direct intimidation and interference by the Russian state” in the anti-doping program. However, the report did not make conclusive statements regarding doping by Russian athletes in Sochi.

●The Russian sports ministry, led by sports minister Vitaly Mutko, directly instructed lab personnel to manipulate samples. In his news conference in Geneva, Pound said Mutko “knew what was going on.”

The allegations surfaced after a German TV network aired a documentary, “Secret doping dossier: How Russia produces its winners.” The IAFF was apparently complicit in a coverup as the TV network and the Sunday Times “were leaked a database belonging to athletics’ governing body with details of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 competitors which revealed ‘extraordinary’ levels of doping. IAAF accused of failing to follow up suspicious tests by hundreds of athletes including world champions and Olympic medal winners.”

Former IAAF President Lamine Diack was fired and later arrested on charges of taking bribes to cover up doping cases. All in all, a sordid affair with the Russian government in on the entire scheme from the beginning.

For those cynics who believe “they all do it,” well, they don’t. It’s not hard to run a clean program if your organization is dedicated to it. The key is a severe testing regimine where athletes are tested before, during, and after a competition with plenty of surprise testing in between.

Here’s a list of U.S. athletes banned by our federation for doping.

I’m not saying that the U.S. is any purer than most other major countries that compete. Certainly, we have athletes who try and beat the system. Lance Armstrong is a good example.

But we’re a damn sight better than the Russians and at least we make a major effort to keep our athletes honest — and clean.