Moscow - President Vladimir Putin said on
Wednesday that Russia must "do everything" to eradicate doping,
ordering an inquiry into allegations of major drug abuse in athletics days
before the country risks being barred from next year's Olympics.
Moscow is scrambling to respond to a
bombshell World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report released this week that
alleged systematic doping in Russian athletics, including by suggesting a
foreign specialist could take over its discredited testing laboratory.
Athletics' world governing body, the IAAF,
has given Russia until Friday to come up with answers to the allegations, and
Putin met sports chiefs in Sochi, the Black Sea home of the 2014 Winter
Olympics, ahead of the deadline.
The stakes could not be higher for Russia,
which risks being excluded from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio over damning
allegations of corruption and "state-sponsored" doping.
"We must do everything in Russia to
rid ourselves of this problem," Putin said in footage shown on Russian
television of the meeting - ironically called to discuss the country's
preparations for Rio 2016.
"We must carry out our own internal
inquiry," he said, telling sports officials to show "the most open
and professional cooperation with international anti-doping authorities".
"This problem does not exist only in
Russia, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must answer
them," he said.
It is the first time Putin, himself an avid
sportsman, has commented publicly on the charges levelled by an independent
commission chaired by WADA's Dick Pound, which have rocked the flagship
Putin echoed a plea by Russia's Olympic
Committee not to sacrifice the dreams of clean competitors, saying there should
not be collective punishment.
"If someone breaks the rules on
doping, the responsibility should be individual," the Kremlin leader said.
"Athletes who have never touched
doping should not pay for those who have transgressed."
As the doping storm has developed during
the week, Russian officials have given conflicting responses.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on
Wednesday lashed out at the claims, saying they were an attempt to "defile
the image" of the country and arguing that excluding Russia from the
Olympics would be to get rid of a "major competitor".
But Mikhail Butov, the Russian athletics
federation's secretary general and one of the 27 council members of the IAAF
who will meet on Friday, conceded that doping was an issue.
"We are conscious of the problem that
we've got. We've got a problem with doping," he admitted to the BBC.
Russia, accused by WADA of
"sabotaging" the last Olympic Games, finished fourth in the medals
table at London 2012.
The furore comes after Grigory Rodchenkov,
the disgraced director of Moscow's suspended anti-doping laboratory who
according to WADA deliberately destroyed almost 1 500 samples, resigned his
His laboratory has being stripped of its
accreditation, prompting swimming's governing body FINA to announce it had
moved all the samples taken at this year's world championships in Russia to a
WADA-approved lab in Barcelona.
The crisis engulfing athletics comes hot on
the heels of a massive corruption scandal at world football's top body FIFA and
as cycling is still recovering from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
On Wednesday shamed former IAAF president
Lamine Diack, 82, who is facing corruption charges, resigned from his position
on the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Olympic chief Thomas Bach, in his first
reaction to WADA's findings, said the report was "sad and shocking",
pointing to allegations that some officials demanded vast sums of money to hush
up positive dope tests.
"I would never have imagined that in
an international federation, money would be solicited from athletes to
manipulate results," said the International Olympic Committee president.
Fears are growing that the scandal could
widen to include other countries and other sports, as WADA suggested in its
Andrey Baranov, a Russian sports agent who
sparked the global investigation into athletics doping, told Britain's Guardian
newspaper: "It is wrong just to be focusing on Russia. There should be a
similar investigation into countries like Kenya and Ethiopia too.
"Their top athletes are earning far
more than the Russians. Yet their levels of testing are very limited."
The German TV documentary that triggered
the WADA investigation claimed that a third of the 146 world and Olympic medals
awarded between 2001 and the 2012 London Olympics were tainted by suspicions of
The IOC, however, said it did not believe
there was any problem with drugs results from the 2014 Winter Olympics in
Sochi, carried out at a WADA-accredited laboratory.