Kremlin: Russia remains 'open to cooperation' on doping

Russia banned (Getty Images)
Russia banned (Getty Images)

Moscow - The Kremlin on Wednesday said it regrets a proposed four-year ban for the country's athletes over doping but Russia is still open to cooperation to resolve the scandal.

"This is definitely concerning information. We regret this," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The compliance review committee at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday recommended a four-year sporting ban over falsified lab data it received from Russia.

If WADA chiefs adopt the committee's recommendations, Russia faces exclusion from key sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Putin, in Saint Petersburg with Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA president, said on Wednesday that Russia would do its best to make sure the four Euro 2020 football tournament games scheduled for the city next summer went ahead.

"We will do everything not to let down you, fans and players," Putin said.

On Tuesday, a WADA source said that the Euro 2020 finals would be excluded from the potential ban because it is "not a major event."

Saint Petersburg is one of 12 locations across Europe scheduled to host matches in next year's tournament.

Peskov, giving the Kremlin's first official reaction, stressed that Moscow was open to cooperation with international authorities.

"You know the Russian sporting authorities have been, are and will remain as open as possible to cooperation and collaboration with the international sporting community and also with WADA," he said.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov met with the heads of Russian sports federations on Wednesday and then issued a statement.

"It was important for me to hear the opinion of the presidents of the federations and their proposals," Kolobkov said.

"We have always been and will continue to be partners with international sports organisations in the development of sport and in the organisation of competitions. I think that all international organisations have an interest in maintaining the same level of cooperation with Russia."

The doping scandal has tainted Russia's sporting reputation since the revelation of large-scale state-sponsored doping aimed at improving Russia's medal performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Monday's call from the WADA review panel came after Russian authorities were accused of falsifying laboratory data related to the country's doping scandal, which were handed over to investigators in January.

WADA was not convinced by Russia's explanations of why evidence of some positive tests handed over by a whistleblower did not show up in the thousands of files it handed over.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it backs "the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for this manipulation," while cautioning against blanket sanctions that would punish the innocent.

The head of the United States anti-doping agency Travis Tygart however called for Russian athletes to face the maximum restrictions on participation in Tokyo.

Lawyers for the Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, also urged the IOC not to give Russia "yet another free pass."

Peskov said news of the possible ban was "far from joyful for us," but Moscow would await the final decision by WADA's executive committee on December 9 before making an assessment.

"Let's remain sober in our judgements," he urged.

Concerning the tainted data, Peskov insisted Russia had provided "detailed explanations" to WADA of the inconsistencies.

Putin said last month that Russia was complying with all of WADA's demands.

The head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, RUSADA, Yury Ganus, appointed in a bid to restore confidence, has blamed unnamed officials for interfering with the data, which was being held by criminal investigators, not RUSADA.

He told AFP on Tuesday that he expected WADA to uphold the recommended ban.

If Russia challenges an eventual suspension by WADA the case will go to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, whose decision will be binding on sports bodies including the International Olympic Committee.

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