US Athletes May Get Medals as Russia Hits Back at Doping Claims
Russian press secretary says WADA allegations need to be "substantiated."
By MATT GUTMAN
November 10, 2015, 9:54 PM
• 4 min read
-- Russia has hit back at claims by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that the country should be banned from athletics for an alleged doping epidemic thought to be so widespread that it is facilitated by the government and even abetted by its intelligence services. A 323-page report released by an independent commission set up by Montreal-based WADA says "acceptance of cheating at all levels is widespread" in Russia and recommends that the medals won in the London 2012 Olympic Games and other international competitions be stripped from allegedly cheating Russian athletes, which could mean awarding those medals to some U.S. athletes like Alysia Montaño. Montaño was leading the women’s 800-meter race in the 2012 games in London when two Russians, specifically named in the WADA report, and a suspected doper from another country, surged passed her. She ended up placing fifth. "I didn't get to stand on the podium at the Olympics and watch my flag be raised, and honor my country. And be proud to be standing there as I represented my country," she told ABC News. "I'll never get that back." But President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Peskov told reporters today, “The point is that if some accusations are voiced they should be substantiated by some evidence. No evidence was announced so far, it is difficult to accept any accusations. They are groundless.” Yet Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, has already launched criminal investigations based on the report, which describes Russian intelligence agency’s destroying lab results, intimidating workers at drug testing labs and working in cahoots with others to bribe anti-doping officials. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said in a statement, "Russia has been and will be fully committed to the fight against doping in sport” but was "puzzled" by the accusations. "The Sports Ministry of Russia will thoroughly examine all conclusions offered by this report and the facts on the basis of which these conclusions were drawn, and relevant measures will be taken," the Russian ministry said. Russia has until the end of the week to respond to the accusations, Sebastian Coe, head of track and field’s governing body, told the BBC. The International Olympic Committee said today it asked track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to initiate disciplinary procedures against Olympic athletes and officials who are accused of doping in the report. “With its zero-tolerance policy against doping, following the conclusion of this procedure, the IOC will take all the necessary measures and sanctions with regard to the withdrawal and reallocation of medals and as the case may be exclusion of coaches and officials from future Olympic Games," the International Olympic Committee said. If some Russians are stripped of their medals, some U.S. athletes could be awarded those medals, including Montaño. Now she stands to earn a bronze medal -- and possibly three others -- for placing at several other world championships in which she competed against suspected dopers. Montaño said she started shaking when she first heard the news. "I'm very hopeful that I will be handed the medals that I deserve and that those athletes won't have them," she said. "They didn't deserve them." By losing to alleged cheaters, Montaño said, she was robbed of money, morale and, for a time, hope. "There is something to be said about just moments lost," she said. "You can't ever get those moments back. It's not just about the hardware and the physical metal itself. There's so much that I didn't get to do." But Montaño said she's in the sport to get "the very best out of myself" -- not to receive a medal. "I can't control other people's actions," she said. "Obviously, it's hurtful and it's a physical piece of validation of your hard work, but knowing that I really put everything out there and did everything I possibly could helps me sleep at night." She’s now training for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil, and hoping the Russians suspected of doping won’t be there. If Russia was stripped of its medals from the 2012 London Games, U.S. athletes would gain 11 medals, including five in track and field alone. There would be an extensive hearing process before any athlete could be stripped of a medal.