MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has issued a plea for Russia’s athletes to be allowed to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and apologized for the “deceptive” sportsmen caught doping in the past in an article he wrote for Britain’s Sunday Times.
With less than three months before the Rio Games open in August, Moscow is seeking to have a global ban overturned to allow its track and field athletes to compete.
The All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) was suspended from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after several high-profile Russian athletes were caught red-handed in using banned performance-enhanced substances.
“Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches... We are ashamed of them,” Mutko said in his strongest comments over the doping scandal.
“We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.”
Russia, second behind the United States in the athletics medal table at the 2012 London Olympics, is banned from all athletics after an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed widespread doping.
WADA President Craig Reedie told BBC radio in an interview on Saturday that it was “highly unlikely” that Russia’s anti-doping authority would be declared compliant with world sports rules in time for Rio.
Russia has to convince the IAAF that it has put in place measures to show improvement in its anti-doping operation and a “change of culture”.
“We have done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated. It would be unjust to demand all these changes and measures, witness them happen and then still punish Russia’s athletes. We believe passionately in the Olympic spirit and values,” Mutko said.
Mutko’s ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee were not available for immediate comment.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jason Neely