Russian doping scandals could be election meddling by US, Putin says
President Vladimir Putin has suggested that a flurry of Russian sports doping allegations could be an American attempt to interfere in next year's Russian presidential election.
On Thursday, four Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In all, six Russian skiers have been found guilty by an International Olympics Committee commission.
Mr Putin noted that international sports organisations have a complex mix of "relationships and dependencies". He said "the controlling stake is in the United States" where sponsors and television broadcasters are concentrated.
"In response to our alleged interference in their elections, they want to create problems during the election of the president of Russia," he said.
Mr Putin has not announced whether he will run for another term in the March 18 election.
Russian officials have consistently denied involvement in efforts to interfere with or influence last year's US presidential election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails.
They also reject complaints that the Kremlin-funded Sputnik news agency and the RT satellite television channel act as government propaganda arms.
In turn, they have alleged that US private companies effectively act in line with Washington directives.
After Twitter last month banned advertising by RT and Sputnik, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that the move was due to pressure from US intelligence services.
She said retaliatory measures would be taken, but none have emerged. On Thursday, she said "symmetrical measures" would follow if the US restricts Russian media activities.
The Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation said on Thursday that four cross-country skiers at the Sochi Olympics have been disqualified by the International Olympic Committee and banned from all future Olympics.
They include Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova. Vylegzhanin won three silver medals in Sochi but none of the others won a medal.
Six Russian cross-country skiers have now been found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics by an IOC commission.