Inside Lines: Britain can expect cold shoulder in Moscow


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The Independent Online

A new cold war has broken out between Britain and Russia ahead of next month's World Athletics Championships in Moscow, with the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, alleging that claims that doping is rife in his country's sport are fuelled by British jealousy.

This follows reports in this country that Russia's athletes (44 are currently serving bans, the most from any country) had been encouraged to take drugs in the build-up to London 2012. Mutko has hit back, suggesting Britain engaged in "illegal practices" during the Olympics, when Team GB finished above Russia in the medals table for the first time in 20 years.

"In London, there was a little house behind barbed wire and British athletes went there but they didn't allow us in, and that's a breach of the rules," said Mutko. According to the authorative international website Mutko was referring to the Team GB Performance Centre, located in the Athletes' Village, where British athletes received physiotherapy and other rehabilitative services. It was not behind barbed wire.

"Our successes don't sit well with many people and they can't explain them," said Mutko. "Our team at the European Championships, with a second-string roster, beat the main British team and of course they can't understand where these sorts of reserves come from. Our success is very simple – from the talent of our people."

The British Olympic Association dismiss Mutko's claims, stating: "Our commitment to clean competition is unequivocal and our record speaks for itself." This is not the first time Britain has been caught up in a drugs row with Russia. In April, Valentin Balakhnichev, president of the All-Russian Athletic Federation, accused Britain's athletes of using banned substances after Jade Johnson, the long jumper, said Moscow should be stripped of hosting the World Championships because of Russia's poor record on doping. He claimed: "British coaches and athletes should better watch closely what's going on closer to home".

BT get a bit OTT

The Haye-Fury pugilistic panto wasn't the only heated verbal fisticuffs on the Sky agenda. Negotiations with newcomers BT over Premier League fixtures proved equally fiesty, and claims by BT boss Marc Watson that they had secured the "crown jewels" have been angrily rejected by Sky Sports' managing director, Barney Francis: "There is no comparison. Their schedule is no stronger than what ESPN or Setanta [previous football rivals seen off by Sky] showed. We have three times as many matches."

Sky will show 24 of 32 live matches involving top-four sides, which suggests that BT's crown jewels claim is OTT.

Jackal will have day

Is Belfast's Carl "The Jackal" Frampton the new Barry McGuigan, as his mentor claims? The unbeaten IBF super-bantamweight champion makes his Wembley debut on Saturday against Nicaragua's Everth Briceno, with McGuigan gushing: "We're ready to light up boxing. I honestly think this kid is going all the way. He will be as big as I was."

Comparisons between the 26-year-old Frampton and McGuigan, 52, are inevitable. Not only are they similar in weight and size, but their mutual struggles against a divisive political backdrop bind them together. It looks a winning combination.

Cook left to stew

Shame that Aaron Cook, the taekwondo maverick controversially jocked off Team GB at 2012, will not get the chance to test such selectorial wisdom against the man who replaced him, Lutalo Muhammad, in this week's World Championships in Mexico.

Muhammad, who won Olympic bronze, has been chosen at the higher 87kg category, leaving world No 1 lightweight Cook, who was favourite for the gold in London, frustrated again. After the 2012 snub, which he says was "a complete nightmare", Dorset's Cook has switched his allegiance to the Isle of Man.