Russian MP looks to Donald Trump to end doping investigation
Igor Lebedev: ‘We and all Russians hope that our beloved Mr Trump will put an end to this’
A Russian MP has called on US President-elect Donald Trump to stop investigations into ‘state-sponsored doping’ involving their athletes. Photograph: Getty Images
If international sport officials were expecting an apology from Russia after the latest findings of its state-sponsored doping at the London Olympics and other events, they were disappointed.
Continuing a line of argument that began after the first allegationsof Russian widespread performance enhancing drug use in 2014, officials in Moscow dismissed the accusations and said the report was politicised.
One MP even called on the US president-elect, Donald Trump, who has spoken favourably of Russia, to stop the investigations.
The World Anti-Doping Agency report by the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes, including competitors at the London and Sochi Olympics, benefited from state-sponsored doping between 2011 and 2015.
“The sport ministry with all conviction can declare the absence of government programmes to support doping in sport,” the Russian ministry said in a statement. “The sport ministry is continuing the battle with doping from a position of zero tolerance.”
Mikhail Degtaryov, head of the sport committee in parliament, called the report biased and questioned why it hadn’t investigated other countries. “There was an order to attack our athletes. It was carried out in great detail,” Degtaryov said.
“Then let’s investigate the US, British and Canadian teams. I think a lot of interesting things would be presented to the world if investigations were conducted.”
The MP Igor Lebedev told R-Sport that he was hoping Trump, who has praised Putin and talked of cooperating with Russia, would end the doping investigations.
“It was expected that there wouldn’t be any evidence, there would be yet another stream of falsehoods, groundless accusations,” Lebedev said. “All this has a strong political undertone and we and all Russians hope that our beloved Mr Trump will put an end to this.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency RIA Novosti that the Kremlin was still studying the findings.
State media coverage painted the McLaren report as biased. Match TV host Alexei Popov described it as “bullying” and an attack on Russian athletes.
At a roundtable of former athletes and officials, only Alexander Tikhonov, a four-times gold medallist in biathlon, suggested Russia could be guilty, accusing the former president Dmitry Medvedev of not taking action on a 2010 warning from the International Olympic Committee about doping.
“Instead of taking concrete measures, we didn’t do almost anything for 20 years,” he said.
But many officials suggested the findings were made-up. The wrestling federation head, Mikhail Mamiashvili, called the report a “maniacal attempt going on to prove something that doesn’t exist”.
The luge federation president, Natalia Gart, said: “All these accusations aren’t based on any evidence.”
A cartoon published by RIA Novosti captured the overall mood: it depicted McLaren menacingly waving his hands as he depicts a Russian intelligence agent descending on cables, Mission: Impossible-style, into a room full of urine samples.
The MP Dmitry Svishchev, a member of the sport committee, said: “I think the report has smashed to pieces all the logic and theory of a universal doping conspiracy in Russia and government support for doping. There aren’t any facts.”
The double Olympic gold medal-winning pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who emerged as an unofficial spokeswoman for Russian athletics when the team was banned from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this summer, said Russia must win back the trust of the international community and rebuild its anti-doping agency, while also criticising the report.
“It’s easy to accuse if you generalise and put everyone in one mass,” she told Match TV. “But if we ask for concrete evidence against specific athletes, I doubt that they will give it to us.”
A key concern remains the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as many officials have called the doping investigations an attempt to move the event. The former Olympic judoka Dmitry Nosov said: “The main task for every citizen and especially sports officials is to not allow them to take away our World Cup, as well as the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk. This report is another step against this event.”
In separate comments, the former Russian Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachyov warned the findings could create “problems with our participation in the Olympics in PyeongChang”, the South Korean venue for the 2018 Winter Games.