The drugs testing system imposed on Russia following revelations of widespread doping is inefficient and the country must be part of the decision-making process to battle the problem, Russia’s outgoing Olympic Committee (ROC) chief has said.
Alexander Zhukov said in a speech released on Wednesday that while doping was a problem in Russia there was no such thing as a state-backed doping system, which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it had uncovered in the country.
“There is no state-supported doping programme in sport in Russia and it has never existed,” Zhukov told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.
The WADA-commissioned reports, including one by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, revealed widespread state-sponsored doping in Russian sport.
WADA also alleged that Russian testers had helped local athletes at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics by changing drugs-tainted samples for clean ones with the aid of the secret service to give their competitors an advantage.
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The results triggered a ban on all but one Russian track and field athlete at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August and widespread calls for a blanket ban on all athletes until the country could prove it had a clean drug-testing system.
Zhukov said Russia needed a stronger presence within WADA and that the suspended anti-doping authority RUSADA had to be in charge of testing again.
WADA wanted a blanket ban on Russian athletes in Rio but the IOC allowed more than 270 Russians to compete at the Games.
With RUSADA suspended, foreign testers have been put in charge of sample collection and testing in the country.
However, Zhukov said this was ineffective, claiming the limited number of testers were unable to process enough samples.
“How is WADA planning to solve this when, even right now, they say that the UK Anti-Doping Agency, which is entrusted with all the powers, can hardly manage to analyse 6000 samples, let alone a larger quantity which is required for us?”
Russia and WADA have been at odds throughout the scandal with the latter blaming Russian hackers for leaking the details of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs), which allow athletes with medical conditions to take otherwise banned substances.
The TUE details relating to several high profile athletes, including Britain’s Tour de France cycling champions Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins and tennis grand slam winners Serena Williams and Rafa Nadal, were leaked in September.
Zhukov said rules regarding TUEs should change with too many athletes requesting them.
“It is pure nonsense when athletes with serious, at times even chronic, illnesses become Olympic champions and medallists by taking substances which are prohibited for other athletes,” Zhukov said.
“It happens with increasing frequency and becomes common practice. Soon, healthy athletes at competitions will become an exception. Should we really accept this?”
Zhukov is leaving the ROC to focus on his other job as first deputy speaker in the lower house of the Russian parliament.