Russia’s anti-doping agency [Rusada] has claimed that their admission of widespread doping in sport as “an institutional conspiracy” had been "distorted and taken out of context".
In an interview with the New York Times, acting director general of Rusada, Anna Antseliovich, claimed there had been "an institutional conspiracy" for sports people to use doping in Russia, but that top officials had not been involved.
Rusada also denied that there was any state-sponsored doping, but the admission of an organised doping programme was the first time that a Russian official had recognised the findings of the McLaren Report.
However, the TASS news agency reported a statement from Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied any state involvement and added that Russian authorities are investigating the validity of Antseliovich’s quotes before deciding the appropriate way to respond.
Peskov claimed that Rebecca Ruiz, the New York Times journalist who spoke to Antseliovich, had “distorted and taken out of context” her comments on the McLaren Report, and added that Rusada has no authority to make such recognitions because the matter is being dealt with by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.
He also added that there could be no such admission of blanket doping because each athlete accused of doping has the right to object to the charges.
Canadian law professor Richard McLaren released the second part of his report into Russian doping earlier this month, in which he accused the country of covering up a state-sponsored doping programme that took place from 2011 and 2016.
Speaking to the New York Times, Russian officials did not dispute the accusations, although they do still insist that the doping scheme was not state-sponsored.
Professor McLaren's report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency [Wada] confirmed the claims made by Russia's former anti-doping laboratory chief Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who told the New York Times in May that urine samples had been tampered with at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, while athletes were provided with cocktails of performing-enhancing drugs.
Russian sports officials had vehemently denied the existence of any doping operation even as the International Olympic Committee opened disciplinary proceedings against several Russian athletes, while the country also lost the hosting rights to a number of international events. Russia's athletics team remains banned from competition by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
But while officials have now conceded the existence of the operation, Antseliovich said it was "not state-sponsored".
Vitaly Smirnov, the 81-year-old who has been a leading sports officials since the Soviet era and who has been appointed by Russian president Vladimir Putin to reform the anti-doping system, told the New York Times: "I don't want to speak for the people responsible."
He added: "From my point of view, as a former minister of sport, president of Olympic committee - we made a lot of mistakes."
Smirnov said it was important to find out why athletes had agreed to be doped, but also suggested the revelations made by the Fancy Bears - a group of hackers who have leaked the medical records of several athletes from around the world - showed Russia had not been competing on a level playing field.
"Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries," Smirnov said.
Last week, the IOC announced it has opened disciplinary proceedings against 28 Russian athletes who competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Twenty-seven Russian athletes have already been sanctioned following re-analysis of samples from the summer Olympic Games in Beijing and London.
The IOC will also re-analyse all samples from Russian athletes given at the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010.
Additional reporting by PA
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