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'Major political forces are behind this,' says Russian sports minister after damning WADA report

“They are trying to prove something at any cost.”

RUSSIAN SPORTS MINISTER Vitaly Mutko dismissed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report published today as “political” while Russian athletics remains in a shambles over a mass doping and corruption scandal.

“There are many questions that suggest major political forces are behind this,” Mutko told R-Sport news agency following the report by a WADA independent commission.

“They are trying to prove something at any cost,” he added.

2015 Review International Sports Russia's national drug-testing laboratory in Moscow. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Russia has been entangled in a series of scandals after WADA published a report in November alleging state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in the country’s athletics.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended Russia over the report, raising concerns that Russian track and field stars could be sidelined from this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The portion of the WADA report published today also called for a “forensic examination” of Russia’s second-largest bank VTB’s sponsorship of the scandal-ridden IAAF, to check for any improprieties.

The report said that the son of then-IAAF president Lamine Diack, Papa Massata Diack, had secured a $25 (€23) million sponsorship deal with the bank.

This deal was struck around the time that IAAF and Russian officials allegedly met to discuss a “problem” with a “$6 million price tag” (€5.5 M) surrounding television rights for the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

The report said WADA’s independent commission had “insufficient information to comment further on this matter” but suggested the awarding of the television rights could be linked to doping cover-ups.

VTB bank, whose majority shareholder is the Russian government, has denied any wrongdoing, saying WADA’s suspicions were “completely groundless”.

“We are amazed by the degree of partisanship in these statements, which do not correspond to reality,” the bank said in a statement sent to AFP.

We stress that VTB did not acquire the rights to the television broadcast of the 2013 World Track and Field Championships in Moscow. The contract with the IAAF was of an exclusively commercial nature.

“In total, our cooperation with the association (IAAF) lasted eight years. All commercial and promotional activities were carried out within the framework of IAAF competitions.”

The former head of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, was accused in the report of “inappropriate conduct”, alleging he had taken part in behind-the-scenes deals.

Balakhnichev, who refused to make an official comment when contacted by AFP, was slapped with a lifetime ban by the IAAF ethics commission last week for bribes taken to cover up doping by Russian athletes.

“The WADA commission is expressing its unsubstantiated opinion, and the facts it is presenting are inauthentic,” Balakhnichev told TASS. “I consider this absolute nonsense.”

Balakhnichev added he did not see “a single worthy argument” against him and said that his lawyer’s objections had been ignored.

Russia’s athletics federation is set to elect a new president on Saturday.

© AFP 2016

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