MP: Doping decisions are authored by Russia's political opponents
Various - 23 Nov 2017
A member of Russia’s state Duma, the lower house of parliament, has claimed that recent doping sanctions on Russian athletes are the result of a desire by the country's political opponents to weaken the Russian team ahead of February’s winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
Valery Gazzayev was speaking after yesterday’s news that four more Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from competing in the Olympics as a result of decisions based on hearings by a commission led by Denis Oswald, the veteran Swiss International Olympic Committee member, who is probing allegations of institutional manipulation of doping samples at the Sochi 2014 winter games.
The IOC identified the four, all skeleton athletes, as Sochi 2014 gold medallist Aleksandr Tretiakov (pictured) and bronze medallist Elena Nikitina, plus Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna.
However, Gazzayev, who is deputy chairman of the state Duma committee on physical culture, sport, tourism and youth affairs, told Tass: “The IOC commission has already had several meetings, and the same scenario again - the decisions are made on disqualifying our strongest athletes. This is totally unfair.
“Obviously, such attacks against the Russian sport will continue and even reinvigorate not only in the run-up to the winter Olympics in South Korea, but the elections in March next year in this country. Russia’s opponents pursue the goal to create a negative background around Russia to influence the outcome of the upcoming IOC December meeting that will decide on the Russian team’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Games.”
Gazzayev claimed that the decisions are authored by “the same people who are Russia’s political opponents,” adding: “They do not give a damn about the major idea of the Olympic movement that sport is beyond politics. They aren’t interested in anything but to discredit this country.
“Russia’s opponents are just afraid of rivalry as Russia is the leading sports power and our team is one of the strongest ones at the Olympics. In this situation, we should fight on all fronts - in courts, in the legal and information fields and make every effort to restore justice.”
Conversely, Matt Antoine, the US skeleton athlete whose Sochi 2014 bronze medal has been upgraded to a silver as a result of the disqualification of Tretiakov, said: “Changing medals, it's good, it's great, but it's not life-changing for me to go from bronze to silver. For me, the biggest thing right now is justice. It feels like finally the people who didn't play fairly, didn't compete fairly, are getting what they deserved.”
Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s outspoken deputy prime minister, blamed the IOC and the world Anti-Doping Agency for the scandal, saying: “People have been so brainwashed that Russia is to blame for everything that nobody remembers WADA’s responsibility, nor that of the IOC. What were they doing there? Sleeping?"
A decision on whether to allow the Russian team to participate in PyeongChang is to be taken by the IOC executive board next month, based on the findings of a separate inquiry commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland.
Earlier this month, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, waded into the debate, claiming that an announcement by the IOC that four Russian cross-country skiers had been banned from the Olympics for life was part of a US attempt to undermine his country and affect a presidential election in March.
He said: “The controlling stake is located in the United States, because the main companies that order and pay for television rights, the main sponsors, the main advertisement buyers and so forth are located there.
“I have very serious suspicions that this is done to create the necessary environment, to incite discontent among sports fans, athletes, that the state was allegedly involved in these violations and is responsible for them. In response to our alleged interference in their elections, they want to create problems during the election of the president of Russia.”
Putin has repeatedly denied claims in the independent McLaren report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency of institutional manipulation of doping samples at the Sochi games. He said: “Never has there been, nor is there now and I hope there never will be a state system of doping support [in sports], which is an allegation that we are accused of.”
However, Putin did acknowledge that “certain instances [of doping abuse] are taking place just like in other countries.”
• The International Ice Hockey Federation has reduced a two-year ban it had earlier imposed on Russian ice hockey player Danis Zaripov to six months, saying that Zaripov had demonstrated that “he did not engage in intentional doping.”
The federation added that its decision was based on “extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable” when it had initially suspended him.