MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is ready to sack senior sports officials and shake up its system of anti-doping checks in order to convince world athletics’ governing body not to bar Russian athletes from the next Olympics, the country’s sports minister said on Friday.
The minister, Vitaly Mutko, was speaking shortly before the world governing body, the IAAF, meets in Monaco to decide what action to take against Russia after an international report alleged there was a culture of doping in Russian athletics.
Mutko unveiled concessions he said would be on the table, including sacking the leaders of the national athletics body, creating a new Russian anti-doping agency, and possibly bringing criminal charges against people involved in doping.
“He (Russian President Vladimir Putin) instructed us to do everything ... to once again analyze and study the facts and if necessary to create a new system that has the confidence of the international community,” Mutko said.
He said he had removed the head of a Moscow anti-doping laboratory because he had lost the confidence of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA). And he said he would consult with WADA when choosing a new boss for the laboratory.
But he also sounded a defiant note, saying Russia should not be singled out for special treatment when other countries were performing worse when it came to stamping out performance-enhancing drugs.
And it was not clear, he complained, why the World Anti-Doping Agency had decided Russia was suddenly not compliant with its rules after years of saying it was doing well.
“We have done work on anti-doping that no other country has been able to do,” Mutko told a news conference. “We have invested colossal resources in fighting against this.”
“We have clear instructions from the president to find common ground with international organizations and I will do that, I will cooperate with them. If we need to fire everyone, we will do that, but I will find common ground and cooperate.”
Mutko said he did not believe the IAAF would go as far as to bar Russia’s athletics team from international competition, saying some kind of temporary sanction was more likely.
If Russia went ahead and reformed its anti-doping system and its athletics federation, it would need a firm undertaking from the world anti-doping agency that it would not demand a fresh round of changes later on, he said.
“What should we do? Dance on the table? I do not know what else we should do,” he told reporters. “We cannot have any anti-Russian investigations.”
Asked if he had considered resigning over the doping affair, Mutko said: “I have not thought about that.”
Editing by Andrew Osborn