Russia has denied reports that its sports ministry may be involved in covering up doping cases, saying a German broadcaster is influencing the investigation. ARD is set to air new footage implicating the sports minister.
German broadcaster ARD, which first brought the doping scandal to light, said Wednesday that Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was personally involved in the cover-up.
The channel plans to air new footage on Wednesday to prove the Russian official's role in the case that had led to suspensions of a number of Russia's track and field athletes last year.
The allegations in ARD's December 2014 documentary "Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces its Winners" forced the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to ban Russian track and field athletes from competing in international competitions. The inquiry also led to a number of athletes being stripped of their Olympic medals.
The German broadcaster said it had documents proving Mutko had prevented the release of a positive doping test involving a footballer from Russia's top league. The new footage also shows coaches that have been banned for life for doping continue to train athletes, ARD said.
"The Taskforce of the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), which had been presented with the research results for this film… informed us… that the research was a 'very serious matter' as well as a 'matter of urgency' and represented a 'grave concern,'" ARD said in a statement.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly denied any links between the country's sports ministry and the doping case.
Dmitry Peskov said Russia was committed to cooperating with international bodies to battle doping.
"Until there is hard evidence to back up those claims… we will treat this as libel," Peskov said, referring to the ARD claims. Russia's Sports Ministry also issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that doping was a global problem.
"Solving it requires a consolidation of efforts aimed at a continuous improvement of the anti-doping system by all interested parties," the ministry said.
To prove its commitment to anti-doping, Russia's athletics federation said in May that any athlete found to have doped in previous years would be denied a ticket to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Doping re-tests from the Beijing Games have implicated 14 Russians.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko meanwhile accused ARD of influencing a ruling by IAAF on Russia's suspension from world athletics, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Associated Press added that Mutko wanted all retested doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics to be thrown out because of alleged flaws in the reanalysis process.
"A laboratory which falsely declared a positive test result must be stripped of its accreditation, and all the samples it tested must be declared invalid," Mutko told Russia's Tass news agency. Mutko made the remarks after two false positives were flagged.
The IOC had earlier reported 55 positive findings in retesting of stored samples from the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Olympics. The Russian Olympic Committee has said 22 of the cases involved Russian athletes, including medalists.
shs/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)