RUSSIAN sports minister Pavel Kolobkov has told the global anti-doping community his country is “ready to pass any test” but once again denied there has ever been a “state-sponsored” programme.
The former Olympic fencing champion, who replaced Vitaly Mutko as sports minister in October, was speaking to more than 700 delegates at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) annual symposium in Lausanne.
He started his speech by saying the “greatest tragedy” in Russian sport is that clean athletes have been banned from competing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC), describing this as “simply inhuman”.
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The 47-year-old then listed the progress Russia has made in overhauling its anti-doping system since a Wada-funded investigation confirmed media reports of endemic cheating in Russian athletics.
That investigation, led by former Wada president Dick Pound, resulted in the Russian athletics federation and anti-doping agency Rusada being suspended and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory shut down in November 2015.
Kolobkov said: “We are ready for inspections and ready to pass all external tests - we don’t object to this.
“We are working on Wada’s criteria and hope to have them accepted in May, and then be fully reinstated in November.”
He explained that doping has been criminalised in Russia, Rusada has been made independent of government and its budget tripled.
Kolobkov, a member of Wada’s foundation board until Rusada’s suspension, also noted the recent comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the country did have an anti-doping problem and “we should spell it out and admit it”.
Earlier on, Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said “the ball is firmly in Russia’s court” in terms of its return to compliance with anti-doping rules, while the agency’s director general Olivier Niggli gave a thorough update on the current situation.
Listing the steps already taken in Russia, including handing over the testing programme to UK Anti-Doping, Niggli said there were 2,300 “good tests” done in the country last year but 2,344 planned tests were cancelled due to a shortage of doping control officers and other problems.
He said Russia was “well aware time is of the essence” if is to be reinstated this year but welcomed Putin’s intervention as “going in the right direction”.
“They know what they have to do, we’ll see when they are able to deliver,” said Niggli.