Vladimir Putin welcomed an investigation into allegations of Russian doping on Friday, saying the country is ready to offer full assistance to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The Russians have been accused of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping lab now living in Los Angeles, told The New York Times last week that he ran an organised program for Russian athletes and helped switch tainted samples for clean ones, receiving help from people he believed to be Russian security officers.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked WADA to carry out a full-fledged investigation and plans to retest Sochi samples stored at the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“It’s necessary to clear any doubts,” Putin said at a news conference in Sochi, where he hosted a summit of Russia and ASEAN countries.
“Sports must be free of doping, it must be honest, there must be honest competition,” Putin said. “Only in that case it will be interesting for athletes, as well as millions of fans and spectators.”
Putin said he ordered the sports ministry to offer all possible assistance to WADA inspectors. At the same time, he voiced hope that the inquiry has no relation to the current Russia-West strain.
“It comes amid politically-driven restrictions against our country, but I hope that WADA’s action has no relation to that,” he said.
Russian officials have acknowledged that the country has a problem with doping, but denied any government involvement.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko dismissed Rodchenkov’s claims as “silliness.”
“Who could have forced him to do that?” Mutko told the Interfax news agency. “It’s not clear why he’s talking about it, that’s why we asked the prosecutors to question him.”
Mutko said that during the Sochi Games, the drug-testing lab had 18 foreign nationals and was equipped with CCTV cameras, including in its corridors.
“There was a system of monitoring starting from taking samples, and all those recordings have been preserved,” Mutko said.
“The use of doping and responsibility for that isn’t the government’s business they are now trying to accuse us of,” he said, according to Interfax. “It’s individual decisions of a personal coach, a head coach or an athlete.”
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the Investigative Committee, Russia’s top investigative agency, said on Friday it would like to question Rodchenkov about his claims, which he described as part of a US campaign to “discredit our country, paint it in black.”