Russian athletics reject ‘systematic doping’ accusation

The Russian athletics federation (ARAF) has rejected claims that it oversaw “systematic” doping by athletes amid calls for the country to be suspended from international competition.

In a report published on Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) independent commission said the ARAF should be suspended from all competitions, including the 2016 Olympic Games, citing what it called “systematic doping” and corruption.

Speaking to the Associated Press, the Russian federation’s acting president, Vadim Zelichenok, said calls for Russia to be banned from athletics were not “objective” because the organisation’s management changed in the spring, after the cases in the report.

“I don’t believe it is of a systematic nature,” Zelichenok said, adding that Russia had “totally blocked” access to doping products after a string of scandals.

Russia is a traditional powerhouse of athletics and finished second behind the United states in the medal table at the 2012 Olympics, with 17 medals, eight of them gold.

The WADA report said, however, that “within the scope of this investigation, there is clear evidence of a ‘Systemic Culture of Doping in Russian Sport’ perpetuated, in part, although not exclusively, through coaches and administrators, whose collective actions at times extended beyond mere administrative violations into potentially criminal acts”.

In the event, by no means certain, that IAAF were to adopt the commission’s recommendation, Russia could be excluded from major competitions including the Olympics and Europan Championships.

The scandal revolves around accusations that money was demanded from top athletes to ‘bury’ medical tests showing drug use.

The scandal could prove as damaging to world athletics as the corruption affair now shaking football’s world governing body FIFA, where president Sepp Blatter has been suspended and 14 officials and marketing executives indicted on corruption charges.

A co-author of the commission report, Richard McLaren, said at the weekend its investigation showed a whole different scale of corruption in causing “significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions”.

Authorities last week placed former IAAF president Lamine Diack under formal investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.

The 82-year-old Senegalese is alleged to have received over one million euros ($1.09 million) in bribes in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests by Russian athletes, the office of France’s financial prosecutor said. Source: Al Jazeera