Russian sports ministry stokes fires in doping dispute with WADA's Reedie
Russia’s sports ministry has stoked the fires in a continuing dispute over the country’s doping crisis of the last two years by claiming that sport is being used “as a tool of exerting pressure and ensuring opportunistic interests.”
After Craig Reedie, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, recently told R-Sport that separating sport from politics is “a sort of impossible dream,” the ministry said in a statement: “We believe that sports is an autonomous area of people's life that must be separated from the political agenda.”
Reedie was speaking after the World Anti-Doping Agency’s recent decision that RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The decision seemed to increase the likelihood of Russian athletes being barred from competing at the winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang in February 2018, with the International Olympic Committee due to decide early next month whether to allow Russian athletes to compete at the games.
The IOC responded to the decision by saying that its executive board “will take all the circumstances, including all the measures to ensure a level playing field at the Olympic Winter Games 2018, into consideration when it decides on the participation of the Russian athletes.”
Meanwhile, VGTRK, Russia's official broadcaster, said in its own statement that “if our team is barred from participating in the winter Olympics, our channels will not show the games.”
VGTRK’s Russia 1 is among three Russian channels due to broadcast the games, along with the state-controlled Channel One, and the sports network Match TV, which is indirectly owned by the state through gas company Gazprom.
A Kremlin spokesman said it could “understand” the decision of the state media group, adding: “Broadcasting the Olympic Games requires the acquisition of rights that are very expensive. These sums are clearly spent in the hope of great interest from Russian viewers.
“If our team is not participating in the Olympics then the interest of Russian viewers in these programmes will be reduced.
“But it is still too soon to talk about that. Preparations for the Olympics are ongoing and our sporting authorities are continuing with great patience in dialogue with international sporting bodies.”
The outspoken Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, said: “What’s the point of showing the games if our athletes aren’t there? Judging by the early decisions that have been made [by international bodies] we can see the direction all this is going in. If the goal is to discredit Russia and Russian sport, that is being achieved.”