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Track and Field

Vladimir Putin orders investigation into Russia doping allegations

Russia president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered an investigation into allegations of widespread doping among the country's sports figures.

Track and field body set to decide on possible suspensions

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a late-night meeting with the heads of his country's sports federations. (REUTERS)

Russia president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered an investigation into allegations of widespread doping among the country's sports figures.

Putin called for the investigation in a late-night meeting with the heads of Russia's sports federations. The meeting comes in the wake of Monday's report by a commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency that said Russian sports is plagued by extensive, state-sanctioned doping.

The allegations have raised the prospect of Russia's track and field athletes being denied participation in next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Putin ordered Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and "all colleagues connected with sport" to pay close attention to the doping allegations and for an internal investigation to be conducted — one that guaranteed full cooperation with international anti-doping bodies.

"The struggle with doping in sports, unfortunately, remains a pressing issue and it requires unending attention," he said.

However, Putin also drew a clear distinction with clean athletes.

"It's absolutely clear that athletes who stay away from dope … shouldn't be held responsible" for those who use performance enhancing drugs," he said.

Putin is up against a Friday deadline for track's governing body to decide on whether to suspend Russia — a first step toward excluding its athletes from next year's Olympic — following WADA's report.

Earlier, Mutko said the country was ready to allow a foreigner to take charge of its anti-doping lab.

Grigory Rodchenkov resigned Tuesday as director of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, a day after he was accused of concealing positive doping tests, extorting money from athletes and destroying 1,417 samples.

The lab, which handled doping tests for last year's Winter Olympics, has stopped work after WADA stripped its accreditation.

In comments reported by Russian agency R-Sport, Mutko said Russia was ready "to put a foreign specialist in charge of the laboratory, if that's what's needed."

The governing body of swimming said Wednesday it is moving its doping test samples taken at the world championships in Russia to the WADA-accredited lab in Barcelona.

FINA said in a statement that it "expresses its deep concern" over the publication of the WADA-commissioned report "and its impact in worldwide sport in general."

IOC president Thomas Bach said he expected the IAAF to take "necessary measures" against the Russian track and field federation on Friday.

Russia could be suspended from the sport — nine months before next year's Olympics — when IAAF president Sebastian Coe convenes a meeting of his ruling council.

Bach told reporters in Lausanne, Switzerland, that "the IAAF has informed us they will take the necessary measures."

Bach said he expects the IAAF decisions will "protect clean athletes."

Russian track federation vice president Tatyana Lebedeva, a former Olympic long jump champion, said the organization has carried out enough reforms to deserve a place at next year's Olympics despite the doping scandal.

Lebedeva told The Associated Press "our federation has done everything possible that was in its power" to reform over the last year, since a German documentary about systematic doping in Russia aired.

Mutko to British: 'Your system is zero'

​Mutko also took a shot at Britain, criticizing the country's anti-doping authorities for failing to catch all the supposed Russian drug cheats at the 2012 London Olympics.

The WADA panel's doping report implicated Mutko's ministry in covering up failed drug tests by Russian athletes. It also said that six athletes were allowed to compete at the London Olympics after earlier anti-doping cases against them were slowed down.

"If you're accusing our athletes today, then I'm afraid your system is zero and worse than ours," Mutko said.

An anti-doping official from the London Olympics responded by saying testing at the 2012 Games was "state of the art."

Jonathan Harris told The Associated Press "if these individuals had been rigorously tested in advance of the games then these people would have not have attended the games because they would have been under doping sanctions."

Athletes can use a variety of techniques to evade detection, including timing consumption so the banned substances leave their system before competition.

Besides serving as sports minister, Mutko is also the head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee and a member of the FIFA executive committee. Responding to comments from English Football Association president Greg Dyke that FIFA should consider suspending the Russian minister's membership, Mutko said it was "absurd."

"So should I raise the issue of suspending the British football federation from FIFA?" Mutko said.​

With files from CBC Sports

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