The New York Times reports that after several days of interviews with Russian sports officials, the country’s leaders are admitting that systematic doping occurred across a wide number of sports over the last several years:
“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes.
The move creates an awkward situation for those who vigorously denied the doping reported by Richard McLaren in a special investigation for the World Anti-Doping Agency.
That includes the president of the Cross Country Ski Federation of Russia, who said that “I know that my athletes did not take anything,” and blamed former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov for sabotaging her skiers with “dirty tricks.”
The admission of guilt is likely a move to try to try to stanch the bleeding of Russia’s reputation in the sports world. Several major events, including World Cup ski races and World Cup and World Junior Championships biathlon events, had been relocated from Russia already. Before that, biathletes had threatened to boycott events in Russia. Six skiers and two biathletes have already been suspended from competition, with more suspensions possibly on the way. And many in the sports world had called for Russia to be banned from the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
But the admission didn’t come with much of an apology. Vitaly Smirnov, a top International Olympic Committee member and former Russian Minister of Sport, blamed western countries for creating an environment where Russians felt they had to cheat.
“Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries,” Smirnov said in the piece. “The general feeling in Russia is that we didn’t have a chance.”
And those hoping for truth and reconciliation are likely to be disappointed. Russia appears uninterested in assigning blame. From the New York Times piece:
“I don’t believe we have enough time in life to clarify everything, to understand who’s the winner and the loser, who’s right and who’s wrong,” Mr. Kusnirovich said, calling on the authorities not to sanction the nation at a future Olympics for what happened at previous Games. “Even during Stalin’s times there was a saying: ‘The son is not responsible for his father’s sins.’”