An official for the Russian government has admitted for the first-time that Russia is guilty of an “institutional conspiracy” of doping according to journalist Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times. The Times cited Anna Antseliovich, the acting director of the Russia Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
“It was an institutional conspiracy,” said Antseliovich.
Ruiz suggested that the admission summarized the content of many interviews conducted over several days with Russian officials. The officials allegedly stopped disputing the existence of a doping program as outlined by the WADA Independent Person McLaren Report and exposed by Ruiz in an earlier New York Times article titled “Russian Insider Says State-Run Doping Fueled Olympic Gold” about whistleblower and former RUSADA director Grigory Rodchenkov published in May 2016.
Rather than deny the existence of a Russian doping program, Russian officials allegedly re-characterized it as an “institutional conspiracy” that was apparently restricted to the activities of rogue former RUSADA director Rodchenkov. This was contrasted with a “state-sponsored doping program” that would have been orchestrated directly by President Vladimir Putin and/or top Russian officials.
Putin had adamantly rejected any type of state-sponsored doping program in comments made last week during an annual news conference.
"Russia never had such system, this is simply impossible and we will be doing everything possible to prevent," Putin said. "There must never be such thing as state system for doping support. The Russian Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office are investigating all possible instances of doping abuse and will definitely come up with the results in the end…
"Just like in any other country we do have the problem of doping in sports. We must acknowledge it and by doing so we need to do everything possible to eradicate this problem."
RUSADA acting director Antseliovich’s comments seemed to contradict President Putin’s comments only a few days earlier. The definitions of “institutional” doping and “state-sponsored” doping as described by Ruiz seem trivial. Russia’s admission of the institutional doping widely perceived as just as damning as an admission of state-sponsored doping.
In response to The Times article by Ruiz, RUSADA forcefully denied any such admission. RUSADA released a statement claiming that Ruiz had “distorted” Antselovich’s words and took them “out of context” to create the false impression that Antselovich admitted to institutional doping by Russia.
"In response to the publication in The New York Times, RUSADA states that the words of acting General Director Antselovich were distorted and taken out of the context," RUSADA said. "During Antselovich’s talk with journalist Rebecca Ruiz, the acting general director made a remark that in his report of December 9, 2016 Richard McLaren had given up the phrase ‘state-sponsored doping system’ and used the words ‘institutional conspiracy,’ thus excluding the involvement of the country’s top leadership.
"Unfortunately, Rebecca Ruiz took these words out of the context, thus creating an impression that the RUSADA leadership admits to the institutional scheme of doping cover-up in Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov questioned whether The Times had quoted Antselovich accurately. Peskov promised to investigate the veracity of the quotations before it decided on its response.