MOSCOW: Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko had indicated increasing concern that their athletes may not, after all, be able to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Mutko revealed an apparent growing sense of panic – after all the encouraging words from the International Olympic Committee, world athletics federation and World Anti-Doping Agency – by publishing an unprecedented apology for past mistakes.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Mutko said: “In under three months, one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles will begin in Rio: a festival of sporting excellence and excitement bringing together athletes from all corners of the globe. Except from Russia. As it currently stands, when the Olympic flame is lit in the Maracanã stadium on August 5, our track and field athletes may not be there.
“The reasons for the All-Russian Athletics Federation being suspended from the IAAF have been well-documented. They are weighty.
“Serious mistakes have been made by the Federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport for immediate benefits. Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.
“We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.
“Since Russia was suspended last November, with RUSADA, the Moscow laboratory and the ARAF all losing their WADA status, we have agreed a road-map with WADA aimed at restructuring these organisations, taking a series of steps to demonstrate how committed we are to ensuring that sport in our country is clean and fair.
“Before the Rio Games begin, our aspiring Olympians will undergo a minimum of three anti-doping controls carried out by the IAAF – in addition to any testing that they receive in all qualifying competitions. In addition, two international experts are now based in Moscow to supervise all activities of our anti-doping agency.
“We have also signed an agreement with the UK’s anti-doping agency, UKAD, to carry out all anti-doping activities until our programme is restored, and we have made key changes to the leadership of the All-Russia Athletic Federation to give the sport a fresh start.
“Furthermore, all disputed cases of alleged doping have been handed over to the sports arbitration court (CAS) in Lausanne in order that the process can be extra-transparent.”
“We will do everything humanly possible to ensure our athletes are a part of clean, fair and enthralling Games.”
In fact the continuance of the work by UKAD is in doubt after reported problems in undertaking the essential checks and controls.