The Kremlin on Tuesday called for concrete proof to back up allegations of widespread doping and corruption in athletics in the country, after the release of a bombshell report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“If there are any accusations, then they have to be backed up with proof. Until any proof has been put forward, it is hard to accept any accusations as they seem rather groundless,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia pledged to cooperate with anti-doping and international athletics authorities.
The damning document from a WADA independent commission released on Monday said Russia’s athletics federation should be suspended from all competitions including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
It outlined evidence of systematic cheating with the consent of the government in Moscow, noting that drug tests for athletes were conducted at a Russian laboratory that lacked credibility.
“The commission has done a lot of work and its recommendations will help Russia in further improving its anti-doping systems,” Russia’s sports ministry said in a statement.
“The sports ministry will carefully study the conclusions and the facts that they were based on and see how to take appropriate steps,” it said, warning that WADA, however, should act “on the basis of facts and evidence”.
The WADA panel’s findings called for athletics’ governing body (IAAF) to suspend Russia’s athletics body (ARAF) and declare it “non-compliant” with globally agreed doping regulations.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe said he would give Russia until Friday to respond to the scathing report.
The ARAF said in a statement late on Monday it would send a document to the IAAF “in the very near future” outlining the federation’s anti-doping program and “its reaction to the deductions and conclusions” of WADA’s report.
“We are prepared for a serious strategic partnership with the IAAF, including aimed at overcoming a problem in both Russian and international athletics,” the statement said.
The IAAF Council is due to meet Friday to discuss the crisis facing the Olympic flagship sport, and Russia faces a provisional suspension at the next IAAF meeting this month in Monaco.
The head of UK Athletics on Tuesday added his support to calls for Russia to be banned from next year’s Rio Olympics.
Asked if he agreed with the report’s stance, UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner told BBC Radio 4: “Yes, absolutely. I think before then (the Olympics), there are two competitions in athletics which matter.
“There’s the European cross-country championships, which are next month (in Hyeres, France) and then, in March in America, there’s the world indoor championships.
“Lord (Sebastian) Coe, who’s the president of the IAAF, says that his council is meeting on Friday or Saturday this week to consider sanctioning Russia and possibly to suspend them. My strong advice would be: you’ve absolutely got to do that.
“If you punish one or two innocent Russian athletes for the greater good of the sport, that’s a moral dilemma I’m prepared to grasp.”