Monday 26 February 2018

IAAF to investigate claims of continued doping in Russia aired in German documentary

The Olympic flag flies next to the Russian flag
The Olympic flag flies next to the Russian flag

Matt Slater

The International Association of Athletics Federations is investigating "as a matter of urgency" claims made by a German documentary on Wednesday about continuing doping problems in Russia.

ARD's "Showdown for Russia" was the fourth programme by award-winning reporter Hajo Seppelt to investigate doping in the world's largest country since December 2014.

Seppelt's most recent film claimed that two banned coaches are still working with athletes and Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was personally involved in burying a positive test by a leading footballer.

"If the allegations in the ARD programme prove true, they are considered very serious," said an IAAF spokesman.

"The IAAF task force will follow up with the Russian federation as a matter of urgency."

ARD's first programme on Russian doping revealed systemic cheating within the athletics squad that ultimately led to the IAAF suspending the All-Russia Athletics Federation from global competition last November.

A decision on whether to lift that ban in time for the Rio Olympics will be announced in Vienna on June 17, with the verdict hinging on a report from an IAAF task force that has been assessing Russian efforts to clean up its act.

Russia, second on the all-time Olympic medal table, has gone to great lengths recently to convince the world it has changed but ARD's film suggested those changes have been cosmetic.

It aired undercover footage of one banned coach mixing with athletes at a training camp and grainier pictures of a man in a van apparently coaching Russia's tarnished Olympic walking squad who they claim was Viktor Chegin, a notorious coach who has been banned for life.

The Russian Ministry of Sport has strongly rejected the main thrust of ARD's argument, listing the number of changes it has made in terms of education, testing and staff, and said it had no knowledge of coaches ignoring bans.

"No banned coaches are receiving any support, financial or otherwise, from the government," a ministry statement said.

"It is difficult to monitor the activities of individuals but if any improper activity is brought to light we will investigate and address it immediately."

The ministry also denied the allegation that Mutko tried to cover up a positive test by an unnamed player for FC Krasnodar in August 2014, a few months before the Russian side beat Everton in a Europa League tie.

It described the claim as completely "without foundation" and suggested its source was the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, "who is known to be a criminal and a doper".

UEFA declined to comment on the allegation but noted that it has never used the Moscow lab for any testing.

As well as implicating Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union, chairman of the organising committee for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a member of FIFA's Council, Rodchenkov was also filmed in the ARD piece accusing Mutko's advisor Natalia Zhelanova of obstructing anti-doping work.

She has responded to these claims via Twitter, saying she was "upset and disappointed" by the programme's allegations, as they are "untrue and made by one disgraced person who disagreed with me on the importance of fair and clean sport".

"I really believe in the fight against doping and dopers and am doing everything I can to create change and restore trust," she continued.

"Reforms are under way but our system won't be perfect immediately - cultural change takes time."

Rodchenkov is now in hiding in the US but his claims about a separate doping programme at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is now the subject of a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation that could result in an even wider ban for Russian sports.

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