Sports Minister Believes Russia is Being Unfairly Targeted in Anti-Doping Investigations

Sports Minister Believes Russia is Being Unfairly Targeted in Anti-Doping Investigations


Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko sat down with RT this week to vent about the country’s suspension by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Russia has been banned from international track and field competition since November, 2015. The suspension was enacted following the revelation that Russian athletes had suspicious results in almost 100 drug tests administered by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). WADA argued that these results were endemic to a culture of “non-compliance“, and voted to enact disciplinary measures.
During a meeting in Colorado, WADA representatives told reporters:

“Firm action was requested following the report highlighting deficiencies in Russian athletics’ anti-doping system and firm action is now being taken.”

Unfortunately, with corruption rampant in the international community, some people viewed these rulings as anti-Russian. According to statements in his interview, Minister Mutko appears to hold these opinions:

“The common trend is there, public opinion, the pressure from the media, especially the British media, television, a German state –controlled channel is producing a series of stories on Russian sports. There is tremendous pressure on decision-makers in track-and-field events and the Russian anti-doping system. There is an impact, of course. If you hear about endless things about the Russians with your morning Sunday Times and your tea, there is an impact; it was intended that way. And they all have objectives – destroying an achievement, removing a competitor, etc…”

The backlash against “drug cheats” seems to have disproportionately affected Russian athletes, and it’s by no means limited to track and field. Recently, Maria Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, and now faces a expulsion from the tennis community. Meldonium is quite popular among in Russian sports and was only recently added to the list of substances banned in international competition. While the drug does function as a minor stimulant, it’s easy to see why these new regulation could be seen as a political move.
Minister Mutko addressed the specifics of meldonium-related suspensions during his interview:

“This situation doesn’t only concern Russia, it has worldwide implications. I would even say this is something of a test for the international world of sports. We need to carefully explain to the public why this drug has been blacklisted, how long it remains in the system, etc. Before we penalize an athlete, we must be absolutely sure that they deliberately, knowingly used a prohibited substance to cheat and get an upper hand. Otherwise we risk punishing an innocent person…

We can’t totally distrust athletes. Let me give you an example. Here is Pavel Kulizhnikov, world champion in speed skating, who had been leading throughout the season. He was competing in a two-day race at the World All-round Championship. They took his sample for a doping test on the 13th, and he tested negative. Then they took another sample the next day, and he tested positive, showing a micro amount of meldonium. But that doesn’t make sense: this athlete would have to be totally crazy to deliberately take a prohibited drug during a competition, while knowing perfectly well that, as a world champion heading for a new record, he would definitely be tested the next day. I just don’t believe it’s possible…

The Russian Federation pays $1 million in membership fees to WADA, and another $300,000 to finance doping-related research. The other member-states in the Council of Europe also pay that money. Now the Council of Europe and all of its 47 member-states are saying, “Let’s see those research results.” After all, we paid for it.”

Whether these moves are targeted or proportional is an issue that will most likely will never have a real answer. For the moment, it’s in Russia’s best interest to continue to put a positive spin on their suspension, and I’m sure the WADA will maintain their independent and “unbiased” position. At this point, the only thing the international community can do is begin to refocus on creating a universal regulatory bureau and simply move forward in good faith.
UK Athletics attempted to begins this process with the proposals they laid out in their “Manifesto for Clean Athletics“. Unfortunately, in the past, Mutko claimed the UK’s testing system had “zero value”, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Russians view these proposals moving forward.
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