Russia's hopes of competing in the Winter Olympics suffered a major blow after the World Anti-Doping Agency ruled that the country was yet to fulfill two key demands that Moscow said have a "political character."
The World Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday refused to reinstate Russia's suspended anti-doping agency, RUSADA, saying the country had still not fulfilled two key requirements.
WADA had asked Russia to publicly accept results of an investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that found Russia ran a state-sponsored doping program. It was also told to allow access to urine samples collected during the time of the cheating.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said on Thursday some of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) criteria for the reinstatement of RUSADA have a "political character," R-Sport news agency reported.
The WADA decision is likely to jeopardize Russia's chances of competing in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to decide on Russia's fate at an executive board meeting next month in Lausanne in Switzerland.
Russia denies state-sponsored doping
Russia's anti-doping agency was suspended in 2015 after a WADA report found evidence of state-sponsored doping. Russia was also accused of systematically violating anti-doping regulations.
Russia denies the charges, saying the doping program that marred the 2014 Games in Sochi was the work of individuals, not the government.
"We absolutely deny the existence of a state-sponsored doping system," Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, reiterated during WADA's meet in Seoul on Thursday.
"It is clear that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren Report is impossible," Zhukov added. "Such a requirement cannot, and should not serve as an obstacle to the full compliance of RUSADA."
'Flood of evidence'
The chief of the US anti-doping agency described the latest development as "another sad moment in this entire sordid affair."
"There was really no other outcome, based on their unwillingness to admit what the flood of evidence proves," said Travis Tygart, USADA chief executive. "Now clean athletes are watching anxiously to see if the IOC similarly will take action to finally stand up for their rights or not."
Russia escaped a blanket ban before Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil last year when the IOC allowed individual sports federations to determine the eligibility of the athletes.
The IOC has already banned six Russian athletes from next year's Pyeongchang Games with several more cases still to be decided.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the bans were designed to create discontent ahead of next year's elections in Russia and claimed the World Olympic body was being manipulated by US interests.
ap/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)