Glasgow, Scotland: Russia‘s new anti-doping chief Vitaly Smirnov told World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Sunday that the country had “never had a state-sponsored system of doping” as the date for the publication of a new special report into alleged Russian cheating was announced.
Smirnov, a senior figure in Soviet and Russian sport as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from 1971 to 2015, told a WADA Foundation meeting of delegates from governments and the Olympic world, that the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs was a global problem.
“Russia has never had a state-sponsored system of doping. Doping is not the problem of one specific country. We have to fight this evil together,” he said.
Afterwards Smirnov told reporters, “If one person is a criminal, it does not mean the whole country is a criminal. We know this system did not exist.”
WADA recommended that the entire Russian team be excluded from the Rio Olympics in August after accusing Russia of a systemic state-sponsored doping programme in its independent report by Richard McLaren, published just before the Games.
Although Russian track and field athletes were banned from Rio, the IOC rejected the proposal of a blanket ban and instead let international sports federations decide which athletes should be eligible to compete.
WADA director general Olivier Niggli told the meeting that a second report from Canadian lawyer McLaren was set to be published on December 9. It is expected to provide more detail on the alleged Russian cheating and focus more on winter sports.
Former WADA chairman Dick Pound, who oversaw the initial investigation together with McLaren, expressed surprise at Smirnov’s comments.
“From the Russian side, it is important to stop denying and now get back on line,” Pound told reporters.
WADA has been working with Russia to make changes to its drug-testing programme since the Rio Olympics. Rob Koehler, who is in charge of the monitoring, said Russia was making some progress but international testers were still not getting access to some cities or to previous test samples and that there were challenges around gaining information about athletes’ whereabouts.
“It is not all gloom and doom and there is progress,” Koehler told the meeting.
The delegates re-elected WADA President Craig Reedie for a second three-year term by acclamation. Norway’s Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland was also elected as vice-president.