December 28, 2016 - 14:03 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia is for the first time conceding that its officials carried out one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history: a far-reaching doping operation that implicated scores of Russian athletes, tainting not just the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but also the entire Olympic movement, The New York Times reports.
Over several days of interviews here with The New York Times, Russian officials said they no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents.
“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes, while emphasizing that the government’s top officials were not involved.
A lab director tampered with urine samples at the Olympics and provided cocktails of performance-enhancing drugs, corrupting some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. Members of the Federal Security Service, a successor to the K.G.B., broke into sample bottles holding urine. And a deputy sports minister for years ordered cover-ups of top athletes’ use of banned substances.
Russian sports officials had vehemently denied the doping operation’s existence despite a detailed confession by the nation’s former antidoping lab chief, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, in a New York Times article last May that was subsequently confirmed by global antidoping regulators.
An investigator appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard McLaren, published more extensive evidence this month that prompted the International Olympic Committee to open disciplinary proceedings against dozens of additional Russian athletes.
Russia’s drastic shift in tone may be motivated by a desire to reconcile with the regulators, who have stipulated that the nation accept the findings of the recent investigation before the country is recertified to conduct drug testing and be a host again of Olympic competitions.
The officials, however, continue to reject the accusation that the doping program was state-sponsored. They define the Russian state as President Vladimir V. Putin and his closest associates.
Ms. Antseliovich, who has not been directly implicated in the investigations, said she was shocked by the revelations.
Vitaly Smirnov, 81, a top sports official whose career dates to the Soviet era and who was appointed this year by Mr. Putin to reform the nation’s antidoping system, said he did not want “to speak for the people responsible.” Mr. Smirnov said he had not met most of the individuals implicated in a report by Mr. McLaren — emphasizing that they had been dismissed as a result — nor did he know where they were.
“From my point of view, as a former minister of sport, president of Olympic committee — we made a lot of mistakes,” he said, echoing Mr. Putin’s broad denials of a state-sponsored system and noting that he would defer to the global governing bodies of each sport to rule on the evidence.
Mr. McLaren said Tuesday that he was pleased Russian officials were no longer disputing his findings, suggesting they may have been motivated to stop further investigations into the scope of cheating. “It’s damage control,” Mr. McLaren said. “There are a number of different labels you can put on the facts, and they take a different view of government, but it’s a bit of a vocabulary game.”
The 2014 Olympics in Sochi were a pet project for Mr. Putin, who was closely involved in politicking for and preparing for them. Proud references to the Sochi Games overwhelm the Russian Olympic Committee’s offices along the Moscow River, including a nesting doll standing roughly six feet tall in the building’s lobby signed by Russian Olympians.
Many of the athletes whose pictures decorate the Olympic committee’s offices have been implicated in this year’s doping scandal, with scores formally disciplined and more than 650 others now accused. One photo shows Russians kissing medals and another shows Paralympians in wheelchairs holding victory bouquets above their heads.