Putin calls for new anti-doping panel as Russian athletes face Rio ban
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a new anti-doping commission to be created to shape Russia's future strategy, as the country faces possible exclusion from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Putin's intervention came as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to oppose a blanket ban on the Russian team, saying that a collective sanction was "unacceptable".
Mr Putin did not directly address allegations that Russian government officials helped to cover up hundreds of doping cases, but said the state was resolutely opposed to performance-enhancing drug use. "In sport there is not and cannot be a place for any doping," Mr Putin said. "Sport must be clean, and an athlete's health must be properly protected."
He added there was a need to "co-operate closely" on doping with the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the latter of which welcomed Thursday's court ruling to uphold a ban on Russia's scandal-hit track and field team.
Mr Putin told a meeting of Russia's cabinet that the commission, under the direction of the Russian Olympic Committee, would provide "rapid development and tough control for the effective realisation of a national plan on the fight against doping".
He added that the commission would be "independent" and would include Russians and foreigners in the fields of medicine, law and sports administration. He did not give a timescale for the commission to begin work.
Putin proposed 81-year-old Vitaly Smirnov, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee and a veteran of Russian and Soviet sports administration, to lead the panel.
"Such a commission should be headed by a person with an absolutely unimpeachable reputation, who has the trust and respect of the Olympic family," Putin said.