Mutko: Russia 'ashamed' of cheats but should be cleared for Rio


Sports minister Vitaly Mutko says Russia is "ashamed" of athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules, but insists the country's ban from international athletics should be lifted ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Russia were suspended by the IAAF in November following the publication of a report by an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that alleged "state-sponsored doping".

It remains to be seen whether Russian athletes will be cleared to compete in Rio, but Mutko - who has denied state involvement in a cover-up - believes it would be wrong to punish clean competitors for the actions of others.

In a column for the Sunday Times, Mutko wrote: "The reasons for the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) being suspended from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have been well documented. Serious mistakes have been made by ARAF's management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play so fundamental to sport for immediate benefits.

"Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them. We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport.

"However, the decision to suspend Russian athletes from taking part in the 2016 Olympics is unfair and disproportionate.

"Athletes who have never sought to gain an unfair advantage through doping should not be punished for the acts of others. It cannot be right that clean athletes should suffer for the behaviour of others. In no other walk of life would this happen.

"Russia's athletes should not be singled out for a global problem. We do not deny having a problem in Russia, and we are doing everything possible at the state level to eradicate doping, including punishing athletes and coaches. It is hard to think of any sport or country around the world that has not been tainted."

Mutko claimed his country has done "everything asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated", adding: "Since Russia was suspended last November, with the country's anti-doping agency, the Moscow laboratory and ARAF all losing their World Anti-Doping Agency status, we have agreed a road map to ensure sport in our country is clean and fair.

"Russia is going further than all other countries in the level of testing of our athletes. They will undergo a minimum of three rounds of anti-doping tests before the Rio Games in August.

"We have signed an agreement with the UK's anti-doping agency to carry out all anti-doping activities until our programme is restored, and we have made key changes to the leadership of ARAF.

"It would be unjust to demand all these changes and measures, witness them happen and then still punish Russia's athletes."