Facing accusations of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country is ready to cooperate with an inquiry from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Putin, in fact, said the investigation was welcomed.
“It’s necessary to clear any doubts,” Putin said, according to the Associated Press.
The comments come after a bombshell New York Times report in which the former head of Russia’s anti-doping lab detailed a complex, state-backed system to replace tainted urine samples with clean ones at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked for WADA to investigate, which said in a statement it was “fully committed to investigating these additional allegations.”
Putin commented on the forthcoming investigation at a news conference during a Sochi summit with Russia and countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“Sports must be free of doping, it must be honest, there must be honest competition,” Putin said, via the AP. “Only in that case it will be interesting for athletes, as well as millions of fans and spectators.”
The Russian president said he directed the sports ministry to offer all possible assistance to WADA investigators. And amid a potential probe from the U.S. Justice Department, Putin also carefully suggested that he hoped WADA’s inquiry wasn’t motivated by any tension between the Kremlin and the West.
“It comes amid politically driven restrictions against our country, but I hope that WADA’s action has no relation to that,” he said.
Russia is in the midst of a series of doping crises, but has denied any government involvement. The country faces a potential ban from the 2016 Olympics in Rio after it was suspended last November by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over allegations of state-sponsored doping. And since the new year began, a number of Russian athletes — including tennis star Maria Sharapova — have failed tests for newly barred drug meldonium, which apparently improves endurance. Sharapova has been provisionally suspended from competing and, according to the Daily Telegraph, is currently not on the Wimbledon entry list.
For his part, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko dismissed the claims, in the Times story, of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former anti-doping lab chief, as “silliness.” Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the country’s top investigation agency, said he would like to question Rodchenkov and that his claims are part of a U.S. conspiracy to discredit Russia.