Tallent demands gold after damning report on Russia

From reading Russiaand’s major newspapers on Tuesday, it would be hard to know the country is facing a vast doping scandal.
But that did not conceal the fact that Russiaand’s status as a sports superpower and its participation in track and field events at next yearand’s Olympics came under threat on Monday after a report accused the Russians of widespread, state-supported doping reminiscent of the darkest days of cheating by the former East Germany.
The findings by a commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were far more damaging than expected. It means that two of the worldand’s most popular sports andndash football and track and field — are now mired in scandals that could destroy their reputations.
The WADA investigationand’s findings that Russian government officials must have known about doping and cover-ups, with even its intelligence service, the FSB, allegedly involved, threatened to severely tarnish President Vladimir Putinand’s use of sports to improve his countryand’s global standing. Russia hosted the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and will hold the next World Cup in 2018.
Turkeyand’s Asli andcakir Alptekin, the 1,500-meter Olympic champion in 2012, was also approached by IAAF officials demanding payment of $500,000, according to the leaks. She was give a second doping ban last summer and stripped of her Olympic medal.
German broadcaster ARD reported that former Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova paid 450,000 euros ($520,000) to Russian officials linked to then-IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, who threatened her with a doping ban before the London Games. When Shobukhova was banned for two years in 2014, her husband reportedly received a 300,000 euro ($345,000) refund payment linked to Balakhnichev.
andquotItand’s worse than we thought,andquot said Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee veteran who chaired the WADA probe. andquotIt may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system.andquot
h2 Can run but cannot hideh2 Most of the Russiaand’s major dailies followed the governmentand’s lead in playing down the accusations from WADA.
The scandal was typically confined to a small item in the sports pages, with only two business papers and the sports dailies giving it front-page space.
andquotAre they taking Rio away from us?!andquot read the headline on the front page of Sport Express, referring to calls to ban Russiaand’s track and field team from next yearand’s Olympics.
Russia has for years reveled in its re-emergence as a sports superpower, the pinnacle coming when it topped the medal tally at its home Winter Olympics in Sochi last year. Now that prestige is again in jeopardy, with the countryand’s internal intelligence service, the FSB, accused of running surveillance on the Olympic doping lab. Worse, it comes at a time when the country is already under pressure over its hosting of the 2018 soccer World Cup amid the scandals rocking FIFA.
The reaction among Russian officials to Mondayand’s track and field revelations was disjointed, with sentiments ranging from denial to suggestions of a Western political conspiracy.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, whose ministry is implicated in the report, even threatened to withdraw all government financial support for anti-doping work in protest at the reportand’s accusations.
andquotIf we have to close this whole system, we would be happy to close it,andquot he told Russiaand’s Interfax news agency shortly after the report was published, adding, andquotwe will only save money.andquot
Mutko remained defiant on state television, arguing that the report presented andquotno serious objective evidenceandquot of state involvement in doping and that its focus on Russia was unfair.
andquotDoping is not the problem of Russia. Russia shouldnand’t be singled out. Itand’s a world problem,andquot he said.
The office of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is usually happy to pose with Russiaand’s sports champions, declined to become involved.
andquotI have nothing to add to the refutations already made,andquot Putinand’s personal spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a Monday evening conference call. Accusations of FSB infiltration of anti-doping work are andquotnot part of the Kremlin agenda,andquot he added.
Meanwhile, the head of Russiaand’s medical agency, Vladimir Uiba, told Interfax he believed the report to be andquotpolitically motivatedandquot and linked to international sanctions against Russia.
The Russian Athletics Federation denies the main charges in the report. Acting president Vadim Zelichenok told The Associated Press on Monday that calls to ban Russiaand’s track and field team from next yearand’s Olympics are not andquotobjectiveandquot because the federation leadership changed earlier this year, meaning some of the key figures identified in the WADA report are no longer employed.
Regardless of whether its team is banned from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the report is a hammer blow to Russian athletics.


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