With five months to go until the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, Russia’s doping crisis continues to widen, with more athletes testing positive for meldonium use after the substance was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency at the beginning of the year.
Russia has said the decision to prohibit meldonium could have had “political overtones” and be seen as a “provocation,” Reuters reported Saturday. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday his country had done everything necessary to meet anti-doping standards to enable the nation’s track and field team to compete in the Olympic Games.
“You say we should elect new leadership for the athletics federation. OK, we’ve done that. You should not elect anyone to be the leader who has done this or that. OK, we did that,” Mutko said. “There are no criteria. What should Russian athletics do? Dance on the table? Sing a song?”
Two Russian rugby players, Alexei Mikhaltsov and Alena Mikhaltsov, were suspended Friday after testing positive for meldonium, the Russian news agency Tass reported. Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, short-track speed skaters Semion Elistratov and Ekaterina Konstantinova, speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, biathlete Eduard Latypov, volleyball player Aleksandr Markin and cyclist Eduard Vorganov also tested positive for the drug.
Mutko told Russian television Saturday he believes meldonium may be removed from the list of banned substances, while telling Western media his ministry has not been involved in state-sponsored doping. Meldonium was added to the list of banned substances Jan. 1, with Russian-born tennis player Maria Sharapova admitting to using the substance last week.
A November report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed a culture of widespread doping and performance-enhancing drug use among Russian track and field athletes.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said Friday that Russia was still not ready to re-enter international competitions. The country is scheduled to learn in May whether it will be allowed to send athletes to Brazil to compete in the Olympics in August.