Russia's Putin offers 'every assistance' to WADA doping probe

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin on Friday (May 20) said Russia will give "every assistance" to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) inspectors probing allegations of organised doping among its Olympic athletes.

"If there are any doubts, they need to be eliminated," Putin said during a televised news conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"I have instructed the sports ministry and all the Russian government agencies and institutions to provide WADA inspectors with every assistance in organising their work."

WADA is investigating sensational claims published in an interview with the New York Times with the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, as well as allegations made by Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA.

Rodchenkov, who has fled to the United States, gave details of an organised doping campaign including at least 15 medallists during the Sochi Games, with the close involvement of the sports ministry and the FSB security service.

Putin said that the investigation into Russian athletes' use of performance-enhancing drugs comes "against a backdrop of politically motivated restrictions in respect to our country", referring to Western sanctions over Ukraine.

"But I hope that WADA's actions are not in any way linked to this," the Kremlin strongman said.

Russian prosecutors said Thursday that they have launched an inquiry into doping allegations involving athletes who competed at the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Sochi, and would be requesting information from WADA.

The announcement came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that 31 athletes from 12 countries had failed doping tests following new examinations of samples taken during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Russia meanwhile is scrambling to reform its scandal-ridden anti-doping programme in time for its track and field stars to compete at the Rio Olympics in August.

Athletics' international governing body, the IAAF, provisionally suspended Russia in November over a bombshell report by WADA independent commission that found evidence of state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics.

The IAAF will rule on Russia's participation at the Rio Games at an extraordinary Council meeting in Vienna next month.