The Kremlin supported by national sports authorities has brushed aside "groundless" allegations of a mass doping scam involving Russian athletes after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recommended Russia be barred from international competitions, including the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
"Whenever any charges are made there must be some evidence they rely on," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 10 in response to the agency's claims of malpractice made public a day earlier. "As long as there has been no proof, it is hard to react to any accusations, which look rather groundless," TASS news agency quoted Peskov as saying.
The spokesman said he had nothing to add to the stance of the Russian Sports Ministry, which has said that Russia is open to co-operation with anti-doping chiefs to eliminate "any" irregularities from its testing regime.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has told the Rossiya-24 news channel that half of the problems mentioned in the WADA report regarding the Moscow anti-doping laboratory were correctible, while the other half lacked proof.
And the head of Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA, Nikita Kamayev, said his authority has rather been at the forefront of efforts to stamp out doping in sport. "RUSADA has more than anyone in the world used sanctions against the violators," Kamayev told TASS. He also scoffed at the agency's claim that Russia's FSB domestic intelligence service had a hand in falsifying test results or had pressured sports testers to doctor them.
"Anyone who believes this is hopelessly bogged down in the early days of the James Bond saga," the official said.
The reactions came a day after a damning report commissioned by the WADA exposed what it termed "state-supported" doping. The agency claimed in the 350-page document that Russian laboratory testers altered doping test results during the 2012 London Olympics, and that FSB agents tampered with tests during the 2014 Winter Olympics held in the Russian resort of Sochi.
WADA recommended that five athletes and five coaches be banned for life, with the agency's chairman Dick Pound recommending that certain categories of Russian athletes be banned from next year's Olympics in Rio di Janeiro.
"One of our hopes is they will volunteer to take the remedial work," Pound said. "If they don't the outcome may be no Russian track and field athletes in Rio. I hope they recognise it is time to change," the official told a press conference on November 9.
According to the WADA report, Russia used an obscure laboratory to hide doping activities, and the London Olympics were "sabotaged" by the participation of athletes who should have been banned.
The investigating commission also claims the Russian Sports Ministry issued direct orders to "manipulate particular samples" and knew about agents from the FSB interfering with laboratory work in Sochi.
The report further accuses Moscow testing laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov of ordering the destruction of 1,417 doping control samples before the inquiry started. Rodchenkov is seen at the centre of a "conspiracy to extort money from athletes in order to cover up positive doping test results", the document said.
The scandal comes in parallel to renewed objections to the decision to award Russia the 2018 soccer World Cup championship. The global soccer federation Fifa has been rocked by accusations of bribery in the host country selection process for the 2018 edition and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The uproar was compounded by a recent interview with TASS by the currently suspended Fifa chief Sepp Blatter, who said the decision to award Russia the event in 2018 was taken before voting on the choice of host country.