Russian president Putin questions legitimacy of McLaren report


Russian president Vladimir Putin has questioned the legitimacy of an independent report alleging state-dictated protection of doped athletes in his country, which has led to calls for Russian competitors to be banned from the Rio Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appointed Professor Richard McLaren to conduct an independent investigation into allegations made by Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow.

On Monday, McLaren presented a report that found Russia's Ministry of Sport "directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes' analytical results or sample swapping".

WADA subsequently recommended that Russian athletes be banned from the upcoming Rio Olympics and Paralympics, while International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said his organisation "will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated". Russian track and field competitors are already subject to an IAAF suspension.

Responding to the findings in a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said: "The accusations against Russia's athletes are based on information given by one single person [Rodchenkov], an individual with a notorious reputation.

"The question arises as to how much trust we can place in arguments based solely on the allegations of people of this kind, and how much weight can such allegations have."

McLaren said Rodchenkov's statements were corroborated by forensic analysis, adding: "I'm confident that within the context of my mandate he was telling me the truth."

Putin confirmed officials alleged to have been directly involved in a cover-up by McLaren's report would be temporarily suspended, while calling on WADA to provide "more detailed and objective information".

He went on to suggest the latest report commissioned by WADA amounted to political interference.

Referring to past boycotts of the Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics, Putin said: "Today, we see a dangerous return to a policy of letting politics interfere with sport. Yes, this intervention takes different forms today, but the essence remains the same; to make sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples.

"The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division.

"Today, so-called 'doping scandals' are the method used, attempts to apply sanctions for detected cases of doping to all athletes, including those who are 'clean', supposedly to protect their interests.

"The officials named in the commission's report as directly involved will be temporarily removed from their posts until a full investigation is complete. But to be able to make a final decision on these officials' responsibility, we ask the WADA commission to provide fuller and more objective fact-based information so that Russia's law enforcement and investigative agencies can use it in their investigation.

"We can guarantee that their work will be seen through to its conclusion and that all subsequent measures will be taken in full to prevent violation of Russian law and ensure that our country fulfils its international obligations.

"We have always taken the clear position that there is no place for doping in sport. It endangers athletes' health and lives and discredits fair sporting competition."