MOSCOW (AFP) - Calls for Russia to be excluded from the 2016 Olympics over doping allegations are aimed at tarnishing the country's image, Russia's Minister of Sport said on Wednesday, ahead of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
"This possibility exists because some benefit from removing a direct competitor, and others benefit from soiling the country's image," Mr Vitaly Mutko told RIA Novosti state news agency, adding that honest Russian athletes should not have to suffer from "those who break some rules".
A World Anti-Doping (Wada) independent commission released a 335-page report on Monday outlining "state-supported" doping in Russian athletics and large-scale corruption. It recommended that the country's athletics federation be suspended.
Mr Mutko is set to discuss the report with Mr Putin at a meeting on Wednesday that will also look at Russia's preparations for the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
Mr Putin has yet to comment himself on the bombshell allegations made in the Wada report.
The Kremlin, however, has already dismissed the allegations as "groundless" and the sport authorities in the country have promised a rapid response to avoid being sidelined from next year's Games.
Mr Mutko said he would on Thursday provide an answer to Wada's allegations against Russia's anti-doping agency Rusada, adding that the organisation had "no doubt" it could meet international anti-doping standards.
The Wada-led commission said Rusada doping control officers had "routinely" accepted bribes from athletes to ensure their doping tests would be found negative, among other damning findings.
The head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, resigned late on Tuesday, hours after his laboratory was suspended over the Wada allegations.
Wada accused him of being at the heart of a scheme to cover up widespread use of illegal drugs among Russian athletes, including deliberately destroying positive test samples.