Russia defends record over calls for wide-ranging doping ban
MOSCOW: Russia's deputy prime minister, responding to calls for the nation's sports teams to be excluded from all international competitions because of doping, said Wednesday that the country is "among the cleanest in the world."
Following a summit this week, leaders from 19 national anti-doping organisations also called for Russia to be stripped of the right to host major sports events, a measure which would affect next year's World Cup.
Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who oversees sports policy in the country, accused the group of meddling in politics.
"The people who should be analyzing urine have started pressuring the people who take political decisions," Mutko said in comments to Russian news agency R-Sport. "Russian sports are among the cleanest in the world."
The British anti-doping agency is in charge of collecting samples in Russia, and the number of positive tests in the country dropped last year. The Russian anti-doping agency remains suspended following allegations of corruption.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov accused the foreign anti-doping agencies of trying to usurp the powers of international sports bodies.
"Federations and Olympic committees, as you know, develop sports," Kolobkov told state news agency Tass. "So I'd ask people to do their own jobs and not to put themselves in the position of various sports organisations."
The call for extra sports sanctions on Russia follows last month's publication of a report by anti-doping investigator Richard McLaren. The report accused Russia of operating a wide-ranging doping cover-up which included illicit sample swaps at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Russian government strongly denies ever having supported performance-enhancing drug use.
The national anti-doping agencies for the United States, Germany and Japan were among those who recommended the extra sanctions on Russia, though the British agency was not listed as a signatory.
While arguing for Russian teams to be banned, the agencies said individual Russian athletes could compete as "neutrals" if they can show they are clean. A similar system is already used in track and field, where Russia has been suspended since November 2015.
National anti-doping agencies do not have the power to exclude Russian teams or move competitions from Russia, though some, such as the US Anti-Doping Agency, are influential voices in global sports administration.