Sunday, September 23, 2018
Sports

Russians fight doping allegations

MOSCOW — Two Olympic gold medalists from Russia denied doping Friday, a day after they were identified in a newspaper report detailing state-sponsored cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Bobsled champion Alexander Zubkov and cross-country skier Alexander Legkov were among the athletes accused of doping by the former head of the Russian national drug-testing laboratory in a New York Times article.

"I considering it an accusation not supported by anything," Zubkov said, calling the story "simply lunacy."

At a news conference, Zubkov and Legkov sat on either side of deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh, who denied Russia had ever operated a state doping program. Legkov waved a thick folder of papers that he said contained the records of all his doping tests over three years. The sheer number of tests was evidence enough that he could not have taken banned drugs without being caught, he said.

"You'd have to be a complete kamikaze to do that in Russia if you're an athlete representing our nation," Legkov said.

The article also brought a strong response from the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman denounced the allegations as "a turncoat's libel."

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian lab now living in Los Angeles, told the New York Times he was given a spreadsheet of doping athletes by the Sports Ministry before the games. It allegedly bore the names of 15 athletes who later won medals, including Zubkov and Legkov. The spreadsheet was not published and the Associated Press could not verify it.

Rodchenkov said he then switched tainted urine samples for clean ones at the doping lab used for the Games, with help from people he believed to be officers of the Russian security services.

Zubkov and Legkov, who both threatened to sue Rodchenkov for defamation, are two of Russia's most prominent winter sports athletes.

Zubkov carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics and won gold in the two-man and four-man bobsled events at age 39.

Legkov won gold in the men's 50-kilometer cross-country mass start on the last day of the Games and was given his gold medal at the closing ceremony.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin rejects the accusations that the Russian government oversaw a state-sponsored doping program and subsequent cover-up.

"It just seems like, you know, some kind of a turncoat's libel," Peskov said, without mentioning Rodchenkov by name. "I wouldn't put trust in such unfounded claims."

The World Anti-Doping Agency is set to investigate Rodchenkov's allegations, and Rodchenkov himself has volunteered to identify which samples he tampered with.

"These allegations look absolutely groundless," Peskov told Russian news agencies in a conference call. "They are not substantiated by any trustworthy data, they are not backed by any sort of documents."

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