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Putin orders doping investigation while Russian sports minister criticises Britain

The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, has lashed out at Britain, saying testing at the London 2012 Olympics must have been worth zero if it failed to catch cheats. However, there were mixed messages coming from the country, as Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, ordered Mutko and his colleagues to take the allegations seriously and cooperate fully with international anti-doping bodies.

A 325-page report published by a World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission on Monday outlined a vast state-sponsored doping programme that it said had sabotaged the London 2012 Games. The commission, chaired by the former Wada president Dick Pound, said six athletes with previous suspicious test results competed at the London Olympics.

The report recommended that five middle-distance runners and five coaches be given lifetime doping bans. Two of the athletes were the gold and bronze medallists in the 800 metres in 2012, Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova.

But Mutko, who has been bullish in his response in contrast to a more measured official reaction from the sports ministry, said that if tests in London had failed to catch cheats “then your system is zero and even worse than ours”.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson responded, saying: “We believe Britain’s anti-doping system is robust. UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) act upon intelligence alongside law enforcement agencies and this complements their rigorous testing and education programmes for athletes.

“It is a system that is highly valued by Britain’s sports governing bodies and our clean athletes.”

Pound said it was inconceivable that Mutko was not aware of the scale of the problem. “It was impossible for him not to be aware of it. And if he’s aware of it, he’s complicit in it,” he said on Monday.

Mutko, also head of the 2018 World Cup organising committee, criticised Greg Dyke, the Football Association chairman, for saying his position on the Fifa executive committee could come into question as a result of the revelations. The Russian sports minister said the idea was absurd, telling the news agency Interfax; “As a member of the Fifa executive committee and president of the Russian Football Union, I can say that I’m not decorative, unlike [Dyke], and I’ve done a fair amount, this needs to be respected.”

Putin later urged “all colleagues connected with sport” to take strong action on the allegations, saying: “The struggle with doping in sports, unfortunately, remains a pressing issue and it requires unending attention.”

“Doping needs to be fought. As far as the latest events connected to our athletics federation, I’m requesting the sport minister and all colleagues who are connected to sport in one way or another to pay the highest attention to this. That’s first.

“Secondly, it’s necessary to conduct our own internal investigation and facilitate the most open, professional cooperation with international anti-doping structures. We in Russia should do everything to get rid of this problem.

“Of course if we come to the conclusion that someone should answer for something that violates the existing rules in the anti-doping sphere, responsibility should be personified.”

“Responsibility should always be personal, and it’s very clear that athletes who are far from doping, who never got close to this, don’t engage in this, should not answer for those who violate.”

Putin is up against Friday’s deadline for the International Association of Athletics Federations to decide on whether to suspend Russia – a first step toward exclusion from next year’s Olympic.

Mutko had earlier said that he was ready to put a foreign specialist in charge of Russia’s main anti-doping lab, which had its accreditation revoked by Wada in the wake of the report, if required. Grigory Rodchenkov resigned on Tuesday as director of the lab, a day after he was accused of concealing positive doping tests, extorting money from athletes and destroying 1,417 samples.

The Russian athletics federation is due to deliver its response to the report to the IAAF by Thursday, with provisional suspension from all competitions on the cards. It appears likely to argue that it has already taken steps to deal with coaches and lab technicians who transgressed and insist that there is not enough evidence for Russia to be suspended.

The acting president of the Russian athletics federation, Vadim Zelichenok, told the Tass news agency that there was no proof of a systemic issue.

“As for those items of the report that have a direct bearing on the federation, there is hardly any reason for fault-finding,” Zelichenok said.

“Yes, we do acknowledge the Saransk affair [involving the controversial racewalking coach Viktor Chepin],” he said.

“Also, the report mentions a rather banal incident in which two athletes tried to get away from doping control officers. But such things happen everywhere. There is no proof of systemic violations. One sees only slogans.”

Sebastian Coe, the IAAF’s new president, will convene an emergency meeting of its council in Monaco on Friday via conference call to decide whether to provisionally suspend Russia in light of the Pound report.