Athletics: Last-ditch Russian bid to avoid Rio ban

Minister offers full access to drug testers as Wada report details threats, athletes' evasion

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES • Russia's Sports Minister yesterday hit back at a damning World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report released on the eve of an IAAF decision on whether to readmit the country in time for the Rio Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) had revealed that hundreds of attempts to carry out drug tests on Russian track and field athletes this year had been thwarted.

Drug testers had faced intimidation and threats from armed Russian security forces, while athletes continued to evade doping control officers by various means.

But yesterday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted that the country's authorities had carried out all the anti-doping measures demanded by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and offered drug testers full access.

"We have fulfilled all the criteria, everything that they demanded of us. All the athletes are under control," he told Interfax news agency.

"I tell you once again: If you need any assistance from the government, just say so. We will do anything we can for (Wada) officers to be able to visit any city, even the ones with limited access."

  • 736

  • Number of tests on Russian athletes between Feb 15 and May 29 that were declined or cancelled for reasons ranging from sample collection to athletes' unknown whereabouts.

The IAAF meets today to decide whether Russian athletes should be allowed to participate in Rio.

Mr Mutko also hinted at possible legal action if Russian athletes are not reinstated. "I think we must move to the legal plane," he said. "I don't rule out that we will make this move in the near future." Russia could take any IAAF decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Wada's report raised fresh questions about Russia's pledge to clean up its drug-tainted sporting culture in time. It said more than 736 tests between Feb 15 and May 29 were declined or cancelled for a variety of reasons ranging from sample collection to athlete whereabouts.

Testers reported hostile treatment when attempting to carry out drug tests in military cities, including intimidation and threats of expulsion from the country. It said athletes use Russia's military cities - which are off limits without a special pass - as their location in order to deter test planning.

Other passages of the report highlighted the darkly comical lengths drug cheats would go to in an effort to avoid detection.

One track and field athlete had been caught trying to provide a urine sample using a container inserted into her body. "When she tried to use the container, it leaked onto the floor and not into the collection vessel," the report stated.

The athlete then threw away the container and then attempted to bribe the doping control officer.

Other examples of obstruction occurred during an athletics meet. One athlete was seen running away from a mixed zone in an effort to avoid being taken to doping control by a chaperone. Another exited a stadium during a race and subsequently could not be found.

At the Russian National Walking Championships on Feb 27, 15 athletes mysteriously did not start, withdrew or were disqualified.

The Wada report provides further ammunition for critics who have called on the IAAF to take stern action when it meets today.

The IAAF suspended Russia from competition in November, after an earlier Wada report which detailed a systematic doping programme and corruption by sports officials.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Last-ditch Russian bid to avoid Rio ban'. Subscribe