Doping charges hit Russia once again

Doping charges hit Russia once again

General : At least 15 medallists at Sochi doped, says NYT

 Dozens of Russian athletes who competed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, including at least 15 medal winners, were part of a state-run doping programme, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The report is broadly consistent with revelations by an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission last November of widespread state-sponsored doping in Russia, which led to a ban on the country competing in international athletics competitions.

Unless that ban is lifted, Russian athletics competitors will miss the Rio Olympics in Brazil, set to run August 5-21.

According to the New York Times report, which is based largely on evidence from Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the country's anti-doping laboratory during the Sochi Olympics, those involved included some of Russia's biggest stars of the Games, including 14 members of its cross-country ski team and two veteran bobsledders who won two golds.

The newspaper said it could not independently verify Rodchenkov's account of the doping operation.

Samples exchanged

Russian anti-doping experts and members of the intelligence services secretly broke into tamper-proof bottles to replace urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, the New York Times reported.

By the end of the 2014 Olympics, as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged, Rodchenkov told the newspaper. "We were fully equipped, knowledgeable, experienced and perfectly prepared for Sochi like never before," Rodchenkov is quoted as saying in the report, which stated he received the prestigious Order of Friendship by Russian President after the Sochi Games. "It was working like a Swiss watch."

Rodchenkov resigned from his position last November after the Moscow-based laboratory he oversaw stopped operating when its accreditation was suspended by WADA.

"These allegations are very detailed and very worrying and we ask WADA to investigate immediately," International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said in a statement. "Based on the findings of a WADA inquiry the IOC will not hesitate to act with its usual policy of zero tolerance for doping and defending the clean athletes."

The report is the latest alleging widespread performance-enhancing drug use by the country's athletes. In the past week, CBS News aired an interview with a whistleblower, saying that at least four of Russia's gold medal winners at the Sochi Olympics were using steroids.

Putin staked his reputation on the Sochi Games, which at around $50 billion was the most expensive in Olympic history. Russia led all countries with 13 gold medals and 33 overall at in Sochi.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko dismissed the New York Times report as nonsense, according to the TASS news agency.

"I believe these guys, they are outstanding athletes, the charges are nonsense," Mutko, who has previously said doping checks at Sochi were under the control of international experts, was quoted as saying. "The charges against them are groundless. We will study this article and see how to react."

According to the New York Times report, Rodchenkov was given a list that named the athletes involved in the doping programme and their competition schedule and was to substitute their samples if any went on to win a medal.

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