By Julian LINDEN
Doha, Qatar – Russia’s top Olympic official said his country has cleaned up its sports doping problem and should be allowed to return to all international competitions.
Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov told the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly on Wednesday that Russia had introduced a range of strict new rules to combat the use of drugs in sport after evidence of state-sponsored doping saw Russia’s track-and-field Olympics team and entire Paralympics squad banned from the Rio Games.
Although Moscow has denied any state-run doping programs, Zhukov said the overhaul included legislation to jail coaches who force athletes to cheat as well as prison terms for any sports officials involved in doping.
Anti-doping legislation was passed by parliament earlier this month and adopted by the Senate on Wednesday, according to Russian media reports, but still requires President Vladimir Putin’s signature.
However Zhukov said dozens of offenders had already been punished and weeded out of a system which he said was now fully independent and in full compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“Our steps and actions are systemic and consistent and being implemented today at all levels,” Zhukov told the assembly.
“We’re doing all our best to provide full co-ordination and co-operation with all international sport anti-doping agencies and commissions.”
Russia’s doping laboratory is currently suspended after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was declared non-compliant with tests now being conducted by independent foreign testers working for WADA.
But Zhukov said he had some reservations about the WADA testing procedures and said the system would work more effectively if RUSADA was cleared to resume testing because WADA was unable to do enough tests on its own.
“There are very serious critical gaps in the foreign system of foreign doping control artificially created for Russia and these gaps prevent the effective and full scale doping fight,” he said.
“It is very important to restore RUSADA as soon as possible. And we are ready to do that in close co-operation with WADA and the IOC.
“We must restore the atmosphere of trust and transparency,”
Zhukov’s plea for Russia to be reinstated came after WADA President Craig Reedie called on the IOC to introduce tougher new sanctions against countries shown to have engaged in state-sponsored doping.
WADA wanted the IOC to ban all Russian competitors from the Rio Olympics but the IOC rejected their request, saying it was unfair to punish athletes who had not cheated.
The second part of a bombshell WADA report covering doping across Russian sport is expected to be released next month and Reedie said it was criticall Russia fell into line.
“It’s pretty clear clean sport is at a pivotal moment,” Reedie said.
“Personally, I am very keen now that we move forward. It is crucial, in my view, that we make RUSADA compliant. We cannot have one of the most powerful countries in the world non-compliant.