Russia says accusations of Putin's role in doping 'baffling'

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MOSCOW >> The head of the Russian Olympic Committee said it was "baffling" to think that Vladimir Putin may have been consulted on doping by Russian athletes.

A World Anti-Doping Agency commission's report published Thursday said former IAAF president Lamine Diack told a lawyer he would consult Putin, "with whom he had struck up a friendship," to discuss doping cases against nine Russians ahead of the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

The report says the processing of the cases was deliberately delayed, though none of the nine competed at the 2013 worlds and all were eventually banned after further delays.

ROC president Alexander Zhukov, who is also a senior Russian politician, said the mention of Putin in the report is not backed up by evidence and raises doubt over the commission's other findings.

"The unsupported mention of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, in the context of doping and corruption scandals at the IAAF is baffling," Zhukov said in a statement on the ROC website Thursday. "Moreover, the authors of the document admit that they do not have trustworthy information and simply cite certain words from third parties.

"This approach can only place in doubt the objectivity of the commission's work and those views contained in its report."

In the first part of its report in November, the WADA commission accused Russia of operating a vast state-sponsored system of drug use and cover-ups, leading to Russia's suspension from global track and field competitions, including this year's Olympics. Zhukov on Thursday said accusations of government backing for drug cheats were "unsubstantiated suggestions."

A man who spans the political and sporting worlds as a leading figure in Putin's United Russia party and a member of the International Olympic Committee, Zhukov has been tasked by IOC president Thomas Bach with overseeing Russia's response to the doping scandal. Despite his scathing criticism of the commission, he said that he would push to implement the WADA commission's recommendations to clean up Russian track and field.

Also Thursday, former Russian track federation president Valentin Balakhnichev said French prosecutors would question him in an investigation into alleged extortion from athletes.

Balakhnichev told The Associated Press he would not travel to France and that French officials "wanted to come here and I'll answer here," adding that it was "not an interrogation" and he did not consider himself a suspect.

Balakhnichev was banned last week from track and field for life by the IAAF ethics commission, which accused him of blackmailing Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova to avoid a doping ban.


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