Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that a doping scandal involving Russian athletes is a ploy by those who accuse Moscow of attempts to influence elections in the United States. According to Putin, this is retaliation from his enemies timed for the run-up to the March elections in Russia.
The accusation that Russian officials support doping athletes at the state level is an attempt to stage a smear campaign before the upcoming presidential elections, Putin said at his visit to the Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant, RIA News reports.
Putin pointed out that the Olympic Games are to start in February while the presidential election in Russia is in March. “I suspect that all this is being stirred up to agitate sports fans, sports lovers and sports athletes, to capitalize on their anger that the state could be involved and be responsible for the breaches,” he said.
Putin also stressed that international sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee or IOC depend on sponsors, advertisers and broadcasting companies for funding. According to Putin, “this is an enormous web of interconnections and interdependencies” with the United States being in the center of it.
The Russian President thus suspects the United States to be behind the attempts to influence the mindsets of the electorate in Russia prior to the elections in a bid to retaliate for the “alleged interference in the elections in the United States.”
The doping scandal broke out in 2016 after an independent expert of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard McLaren reported the existence of a state-supported doping program in Russia. The scandal saw a new development this autumn.
Following the scandal, the IOC banned from the Olympic Games for life Russian skiers Aleksandr Legkov and Evgeniy Belov. On November 9, four more Russian athletes were found guilty of using dope: Aleksey Petukhov, Maksim Vylegzhanin, Yevgeniya Shapovalova and Yuliya Ivanova.
The day before, on November 8, the Russian Investigative Committee published the results of its own doping investigation that denied any involvement of the state authorities in the use of dope by Russian athletes and concluded that any violations were to blame on the athletes themselves.