MOSCOW — The Russian foreign minister cast calls for new anti-doping sanctions on Russian sports as one more Western effort to sideline Russia, while the country’s top anti-doping official called the step “justified” on Tuesday.
A key panel at the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended on Monday that Russian athletes compete as neutrals at next year’s Olympics and other major events for the next four years.
The panel also wants Russia banned from hosting events during that time.
“There are those who want to put Russia in a defensive position accused of pretty much everything in every sphere of international life — conflicts, economics, energy, gas pipelines, arms sales,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow when asked about the WADA panel’s recommendation.
WADA’s executive board will vote on the recommendations on Dec. 9.
Handing over the data in January was meant to be Russia’s peace offering to put years of doping disputes behind it, while allowing past cover-ups to be revealed.
However, WADA’s compliance review committee concluded there were intense efforts to remove hundreds of positive tests and plant fake messages implicating WADA’s star witness, former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov.
The Russian anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, has been sharply critical of the country’s authorities’ approach to the issue and said it expects Russia will likely have to accept the consequences.
“They’re to be expected and they’re justified,” RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus told The Associated Press.
“One of the conditions for the sports authorities was not met, and unfortunately our athletes become hostages in this situation,” he added. “Now there’s a question about a possible appeal, but as a lawyer I don’t see how it can be appealed.”
Ganus has long called for a shakeup in how sports are run in Russia, and suggested years of defensiveness had driven Russia into a dead end.
He said: “We’re in the fifth year of this crisis, and unfortunately those individuals running our sport have not just failed to bring it out of the crisis, they’ve stuck it in deeper.”
The International Olympic Committee has not responded to the WADA panel’s plan, which would mean Russia fielding a neutral team at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
However, Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva said she expected WADA’s executive committee to approve the sanctions, which would be the strictest punishment yet for any country for doping-related offenses.
“Experience shows that if there’s already a recommendation, then they will be taken note of and implemented,” the former pole vaulter wrote on Instagram. “I have no illusions about a positive outcome or a negative scenario. I’m just waiting for the ruling to be announced Dec. 9.”
At last year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Russia sent 168 athletes under the banner “Olympic Athletes from Russia” after its team was officially barred by the IOC.
This time round, new rules passed last year give WADA much greater authority to sanction entire countries across a range of sports. The rules have yet to be tested at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and some Russian sports officials have already signaled they plan legal challenges.
Ellingworth reported from Düsseldorf, Germany. Olga Tregubova in Moscow contributed to this report.
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