Athletics: Doping is endemic in Russian athletics

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko has been defiant over the doping scandal, admitting widespread doping violations by its athletes and pointing the finger at Russia's athletics coaches.
Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko has been defiant over the doping scandal, admitting widespread doping violations by its athletes and pointing the finger at Russia's athletics coaches.PHOTO: AFP

Deputy Prime Minister claims coaches use doping as a crutch amid extended IAAF ban

MOSCOW • Russian athletics coaches "don't understand how to work without doping", Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko admitted yesterday, after the IAAF extended a ban on the country's athletes to the World Championships.

Russia has been barred from international track and field competitions since November 2015 following a damning report alleging state-sponsored doping in Olympic sports over several years.

Moscow denies any state role in doping but Mr Mutko, who has been defiant over the doping scandal, admitted widespread doping violations by its athletes and pointed the finger at Russia's athletics coaches. He said the All Russia Athletics Federation (Araf) "had a lot of (doping) violations".

"Athletes broke rules and many coaches don't understand how to work without doping - it's time for them to retire," he added.

On Monday, Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said that Russia could not be reintegrated into the sport before November, meaning its athletes would miss August's World Championships.

The IAAF said Russian progress over doping was mixed, pointing also to "unhelpful public comments recently made by some Russian sporting officials" - a possible reference to the outspoken Mr Mutko, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

HARD HABIT TO BREAK

Athletes broke rules and many coaches don't understand how to work without doping - it's time for them to retire.

VITALY MUTKO, Russian Deputy Prime Minister admits that doping is widespread among the country's athletes and coaches.

Mr Mutko said that Russia - which insists that drug cheating is an international issue - was cleaning up its act.

"Over the past year we have done a massive amount of work," said the man who was promoted from Sports Minister to Deputy PM despite the drug controversy. "They (IAAF) tell us, 'You have done great work but there is still a lot to be done (to stop Russian doping).' That happens when there aren't clear criteria, clear regulations."

Araf deputy chief Andrei Silnov said he was buoyed by IAAF comments which said that while Russia was not ready to return to the fold, it recognised "several positive developments". "They don't have any serious grudges against us," he told a press conference.

Individual Russian athletes can apply to take part in international events as neutrals if they are deemed clean. "Our priority is to return clean athletes to competition but we must all have confidence in the process," Coe said.

The roadmap to Russia's reinstatement specifies that "testing of Russian athletes must take place without further incidents or difficulties" and that Araf takes "demonstrable objective and practical steps to cultivate the clean sport movement".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Doping is endemic in Russian athletics'. Print Edition | Subscribe