Russia sees sports doping allegations as spiteful 'political hit job'
By Andrew Osborn and Maria Kiselyova
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin dismissed sweeping doping allegations against its athletes on Tuesday as entirely groundless, while Russia's sporting and anti-doping chiefs suggested the international furor bore all the hallmarks of a "political hit job".
Russia's stature as a sporting superpower is part of President Vladimir Putin's rebranding of his country as resurgent, and allegations from a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission that Russian athletes have systematically used performance-enhancing substances have cut deep.
"I hope this will not affect the morale of our athletes," Vadim Zelichenok, the acting head of the Russian Athletics Foundation (VFLA), at the center of the burgeoning scandal, told a news conference.
"There is an element of a political hit job here because quite a few things were described (in the report) in a biased way," he said, insisting there was no corruption in the Russian sporting establishment.
The WADA commission recommended Russia be suspended from international competition. If endorsed by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), the proposal could see Russian athletes excluded from next year's Olympic games in Brazil.
IAAF head Sebastian Coe has given Moscow to the end of the week to respond to WADA accusations of a state-sponsored doping culture, extending to athletes and coaches, and other allegations of collusion in payment of bribes to suppress medical results that pointed to doping.
Though sports-related, the imbroglio is likely to play into Russia's wider political and media discourse which, fueled by the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, is dominated by portrayal of a standoff between Russia and the U.S.-led West in which Moscow is often unfairly maligned.
Nikolai Durmanov, the former head of Russia's anti-doping agency, described the allegations as complete nonsense and as a literary work based upon "a political order". Continued...