Russia Denies State-Sponsored Doping Plot After Admitting To It

It turns out that a country can pull off a massive doping scheme and still not get its story straight

Vladimir Putin, reading your tweets like — Getty Images
Jan 11, 2017 at 10:49 AM ET

A pair of independent reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and conducted by Canadian sports law expert Richard McLaren produced an overwhelming amount of evidence of widespread Russian doping.

The sequel report, released in December, built upon the original work, alleging at least 643 covered-up tests and blamed the country’s sport ministry, national anti-doping agency, coaches, and internal intelligence agency for a plot to cover up drug cheating by more than 1,000 athletes in at least 30 sports.

So incontrovertible was the proof that, two weeks ago, the acting director general of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Anna Antseliovich, confessed to the New York Times in no uncertain terms: “It was an institutional conspiracy.”

The only caveat was the rejection of the allegation that the doping program was truly state-sponsored, as president Vladimir Putin was said to have been insulated from the undertaking. Mid-level ministers were instead the apparent culprits of the far-reaching scheme that included the cooperation and tactics of the FSB, its national security and intelligence agency. Russia does, however, remain firmly in a state of denial.

Earlier this week, anti-doping organizations from 19 countries—including the U.S.—called the McLaren reports “irrefutable” and “devastating” and then pushed for a blanket ban of all Russian athletes from international competitions. It’s unlikely to happen, as those organizations lack such authority, but their statement incited a fiery rebuttal.

Russia deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko, who is charged with sports policy, responded with this wholly incredulous claim: “Russian sports are among the cleanest in the world,” Mutko said.

His comments—made to Russian website R-Sport and relayed by InsideTheGames.biz—continue from there. Mutko, who had been sports minister until October, also accused these investigative reports of being “absolutely political” and a “deliberate attack on Russian sport aimed at its defamation.”

“There is a ‘golden’ line about some sort of a state program, but there are no facts to back [these claims],” Mutko said.

“There was not a single fact, there is not and never will be.”

At this point, we refer Mr. Mutko to McLaren’s Electronic Documentary Package, which contains 1,166 files—photos, forensic reports, testing analysis, schedules, emails, and working documents—that were used in the investigation.

Surely there’s at least one fact in there and, really, the fact of the matter is this: genuine accountability is the first step toward Russian reform and re-entry into international sport’s good graces.