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Risking doping ban, Russia pledges ‘cooperation’

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The Kremlin on Wednesday said it regrets a proposed four-year ban for the country’s athletes over doping but Russia is still open to cooperation to resolve the scandal.

“This is definitely concerning information. We regret this,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Anti-doping watchdog WADA’s compliance review committee on Monday recommended a four-year sporting ban over falsified lab data it received from Russia.

If WADA chiefs adopt the review committee’s recommendations, Russia faces exclusion from key sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In the Kremlin’s first reaction, Peskov stressed that Moscow was still open to cooperation with international authorities

“You know the Russian sporting authorities have been, are and will remain as open as possible to cooperation and collaboration with the international sporting community and also with WADA,” he said.

The doping scandal has tainted Russia’s sporting reputation for the last five years, after revelations of large-scale state-sponsored doping aimed at improving Russia’s medal performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Monday’s call from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s review panel came after Russian authorities were accused of falsifying laboratory data related to the country’s doping scandal, which were handed over to investigators in January.

WADA was not convinced by Russia’s explanations of why evidence of some positive tests handed over by a whistleblower did not show up in the thousands of files it handed over.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it backs “the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for this manipulation,” while cautioning against blanket sanctions that would punish the innocent.

The head of the United States anti-doping agency Travis Tygart however called for Russian athletes to face the maximum restrictions on participation in Tokyo.

Lawyers for the Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, also urged the IOC not to give Russia “yet another free pass.”

Peskov said news of the possible ban was “far from joyful for us,” but Moscow would await the final decision on the proposed ban by WADA’s executive committee on December 9 before making an assessment.

“Let’s remain sober in our judgements,” he urged.

Concerning the tainted data, Peskov insisted Russia had provided “detailed explanations” to WADA of the inconsistencies it found.

Putin said last month that Russia was complying with all of WADA’s demands.

The head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, RUSADA, Yury Ganus, appointed in a bid to restore confidence, has blamed unnamed officials for interfering with the data, which was being held by criminal investigators, not RUSADA.

He told AFP on Tuesday that he expected WADA to uphold the recommended ban.

But Russia’s sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said in a television interview that “we carried out our duty honestly” and he expected a “sensible decision.”

If Russia challenges an eventual suspension by WADA the case will go to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, whose decision will be binding on sports bodies including the International Olympic Committee.

During its suspension by WADA, Russia was allowed by the International Olympic Committee to take part in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Russian competitors at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games had to take part under a neutral flag.

AFP

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