MOSCOW, January 23 (R-Sport) - Russia is under the microscope on doping issues as host of next month’s Winter Olympics, but Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Thursday that authorities had raised no concerns over any of the country’s athletes.
Russia’s record on doping at the Olympics is patchy, with its athletes stripped of medals at both the Turin 2006 and London 2012 Games after testing positive for banned substances.
“There is not a single question for our team, not a single objection,” Mutko said in reference to anti-doping authorities. However, he sounded a note of caution by saying that drug test rules are so strict nowadays than an athlete “has to be a professor” to comply with them.
Accompanying Mutko, Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov gave the example of Olga Fatkulina, a Russian widely tipped for a medal in speedskating. “Eighteen times doping samples have recently been taken from Fatkulina,” he said. “And they were all clean.”
Russia’s 223-person team for the Sochi Olympics contains at least two athletes who have served doping bans. Hockey defenseman Anton Belov of the Edmonton Oilers received a three-month sanction following a positive test in 2012, while figure skater Yuri Larionov served an 18 month-ban when he failed a test in 2008.
Two Russian winter sports athletes have been banned in the last two months. They are ex-national freestyle ski champion Anna Orlovskaya and national junior pairs figure skating champion Oksana Nagalati.
There has also been controversy over the Moscow-based Anti-Doping Center, the laboratory which will handle drug tests at the Sochi Olympics.
In November, the World Anti-Doping Agency warned the laboratory would lose its accreditation if it did not fix problems with its “status of compliance,” including hiring outside experts to reform the facility.
WADA has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the lab's efforts to meet the demands, though Mutko has said all necessary reforms will be implemented.