Sports News

Russian swimming federation head dismisses doping allegations as "absurd"

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The head of Russia’s national swimming federation on Friday rejected as “absurd” a British media report that two Russian anti-doping officials had offered a way for some Russian swimmers to escape drug testing in exchange for payment.

The Times newspaper said the swimming federation did not take up the alleged offer in 2011. But in a response to the Times report, FINA, swimming’s global governing body, described the allegations as “serious” and asked for anyone with information to immediately come forward.

The Times did not give sources. The accusations follow an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that produced a report ahead of an expected IAAF ruling on Friday on whether Moscow had done enough for a ban from competition imposed on Russian athletes to be overturned.

Reuters has not reviewed the WADA report and cannot independently verify the allegations.

The Times said two men at the centre of allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia offered its national swimming federation a deal to enable some swimmers to avoid testing in exchange for 3 million roubles ($46,000 at current rates).

It reported that Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, and Nikita Kamaev, the late executive director of Rusada, Russia’s national anti-doping agency, twice met officials from the Russian Swimming Federation in 2011 to discuss the offer.

Reuters could not independently confirm these disclosures. Reuters was unable to reach Rodchenkov prior to publication.

Kamaev died suddenly earlier this year.

“All these speculations have an impact on sportsmen who have nothing to do with doping and are open to all checks within the framework of the laws in force,” Russia’s R-Sport news agency quoted swimming federation chief Vladimir Salnikov as saying.

“It is absurd and a provocation on the day of an important decision for Russian sport,” he said.

He was referring to both the Times report and the imminent ruling by world athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, on whether to lift or keep in place a suspension of Russian athletes from competition ahead of the Rio Olympics that begin on Aug. 5.

In a statement, FINA urged anyone with relevant evidence to “share (it) with all appropriate authorities” and said it would take immediate disciplinary action if required.

Rodchenkov, Russia’s former anti-doping laboratory chief who later fled to the United States, told the New York Times that Russia had run a sophisticated cover-up of doping by dozens of its athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

($1 = 65.0555 roubles)

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Mark Heinrich