LONDON: World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren speaks during a press conference in London on Friday. A new report into systematic Russian doping details a wide-ranging “institutional conspiracy” that involved more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30 sports, including evidence corroborating large-scale sample swapping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. — AP

LONDON:  There were growing calls yesterday for Russia to be banned from the Winter Olympics and other major international events after the latest startling revelations of state-sponsored doping across Russian sport.

Richard McLaren described on Friday how Russia "hijacked" sport by involving more than 1,000 athletes in an "institutional conspiracy" to win by mass doping at the Sochi 2014 Winter and London 2012 Olympics and other global competitions.

The Canadian lawyer, who detailed in a previous report how Russian security services were involved in the nefarious scheme, said in a second report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that at least 30 sports were implicated and that salt and instant coffee were used to manipulate Russian samples.  Russia's sports ministry-said to be central to the ruse to cheat its way to success over several years-again denied state backing for doping, saying that it "will continue the fight against doping with zero tolerance".  Russia's track and field team was already banned from international competition for doping and was barred from the Rio Olympics in August, but there is now growing pressure-not to mention anger-for more sanctions.  The United States, Britain and Germany all swiftly condemned Russia, while the International Paralympic Committee, which banned Russia completely from the Rio Paralympics in September, called the McLaren findings "astonishing".  Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, which is tasked with helping Britain to Olympic success, said that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should exclude all Russian competitors from the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

"Absolutely. Until there's evidence that Russian athletes are competing clean," The Daily Telegraph quoted her as saying.  "All the evidence that we've got is that they're not likely to be doing so.  So, yes, I think the IOC should be taking a very strong stance and should be excluding Russia until such time as they've put their house in order." Clemens Prokop, president of the German athletics federation (DLV), called for a total ban on all Russian competitors.

"Russian sport should be excluded from all international competitions, including the Olympic Games, until its credibility is restored," said Prokop.  "This is a fundamental attack against the Olympic movement when the values of the movement are dragged through the mud by a country." The IOC responded to McLaren's latest damning report by announcing it would reanalyse all 254 urine samples taken from Russian athletes at Sochi.  The report, the IOC declared, showed that there "was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general".


Several major international sporting events are on the calendar in the coming months, including the IAAF (athletics) World Championships in London in August next year.

The Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang in February 2018 and Russia is due to hold the football World Cup that summer.  McLaren identified doping as being rife in Russian athletics and weightlifting, but his report found evidence of banned substances being used in football too.

"We didn't really have a chance to look at Russian soccer across the board, to look at different teams and what's going on," McLaren told AFP after presenting his report findings in London.

"I think there are 33 footballers listed in the report. Not all of those are Russian by the way-some are foreigners."

That led British MP Damian Collins to question whether Russia was fit to host the 2018 World Cup.

"FIFA now have to look very seriously at the way in which the World Cup is going to be staged," Collins, of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, told the BBC.

"How can Russia give confidence to FIFA and to the world that there will be proper anti-doping measures in place during the World Cup?"  -- AFP