Russian Officials Deny Allegations Of State-Sponsored Athlete Doping

May 15, 2016
Originally published on May 16, 2016 9:23 am
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Top Russian sports figures are denying the latest allegations that their country ran a state-sponsored doping program to win medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The allegations come from the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, who says he helped conceal doping by some of Russia's top competitors during the 2014 games. The scandal threatens Russia's chances to compete in this summer's Olympics. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF: Grigory Rodchenkov says there was a secret scheme to replace Russian athletes' drug-tainted urine samples with clean samples that had been collected months earlier. At a news conference in Moscow though, Russia's deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says Russia could not have carried out such a fraud because there were foreign observers constantly watching the drug-testing process.

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YURI NAGORNYKH: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: "In our laboratory," he said, "there were 58 drug-testing specialists, including 12 foreign experts who were provided by the International Olympic Committee. There were also observers from the World Anti-Doping Agency at every testing station." Alexander Zubkov, a gold medalist in bobsledding, said even before the Olympics, Russia's elite athletes were frequently tested by monitors at international events.

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ALEXANDER ZUBKOV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: Zubkov says people who are among the top-10 in each sport are closely watched at all times. He says the system would've caught them if they'd been using performance-enhancing drugs. Russia's track and field athletes are currently banned from competing in international events because of doping allegations. The latest claims could hurt their chances of being reinstated before this summer's Olympics in Rio. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.