Rogge tells Russia to keep it clean
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has spoken to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about his country's repeated doping violations in cross-country skiing and biathlon and says enforcement of the rules is now in the hands of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The suspicions surrounding the Russians, who have had eight biathletes and cross-country skiers banned for doping since the end of the 2009 World Cup season, were raised repeatedly during Rogge's media conference Monday in Vancouver.
Rogge replied by saying the IOC has pushed all the buttons it can ahead of the Vancouver Olympics, and that WADA is watching.
"I was puzzled by the numbers, yes indeed," Rogge said. "I was concerned. Otherwise, I wouldn't have spoken to the president of the republic.
"This is an expression of concern. The relationship between the Russian sports authorities and the Russian national authorities in the field of doping are in the hands of WADA.
"We add our symbolic voice and our preoccupation and insist this should be done. But this is clearly something to be dealt with by the World Anti-Doping Agency."
Russian biathletes and cross-country skiers have been at the centre of controversy over the past year as they have been caught doping again and again.
Five-time Olympic medallist Albina Akhatova and former world champion Yekaterina Iourieva both received two-year suspensions after testing positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO, while cross-country skier Alena Sidko, a bronze medallist in 2006, was dropped from the Olympic team last month for the same reason.
Rogge is hoping his conversation with Medvedev yields results.
"I insisted on the need to have a strong action on doping," said Rogge. "He promised that he would launch that and he was very explicit also in public declarations after that. So I say, yes, we have alerted the Russian authorities and we expect them to comply."
Some feel that may not be the case.
The case of biathlete Olga Medvedtseva's scheduled participation in the Vancouver Olympics was brought up and it was suggested her inclusion on the Russian team after serving a doping ban was a demonstration of its indifference to the rules.
Known as Olga Pyleva then, she was stripped of a silver medal after becoming the only athlete to test positive at the 2006 Games.
"In law, once you have served your time, you are entitled to come back into society," Rogge said.
A handful of coaches have also gone public with their concerns in recent months, but Rogge insists all that can be done has been done.
"I understand that people are worried by the numbers," he said. "It's absolutely legitimate to be worried.
"I can say that the IOC, I believe, has shown its preoccupation, too, by speaking to the minister of sport, by speaking to the president of the republic, by insisting also at the level of sporting authorities to do everything they can. This is legitimate and it is up now to the Russian sports authorities to respond by a strict and good anti-doping action."