Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday acknowledged that the anti-doping system in his country has failed, but refuted allegations the government colluded in widespread cheating among athletes.
The doping scandal in Russia has led to multiple sanctions, with the nation's track-and-field athletes banned from international competition and much of its Olympic squad barred from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Putin said he accepts many of the findings of an independent panel that was created by the World Anti-Doping Agency and produced evidence of cheating among athletes, coaches and officials. The investigation was headed by Canadian attorney Richard McLaren.
The agency has put forth a list of reforms that Russia must enact to regain its athletic eligibility.
"The most important thing is that we heed the demands of the independent commission despite its drawbacks, because we need to admit that some cases of doping have really been detected, as doping is completely unacceptable," Putin told the Tass news agency. "This means that the Russian anti-doping system has failed, and this is our fault."
The World Anti-Doping Agency quickly praised at least part of Putin's statement.
"WADA is encouraged by this sign of progress from the highest political levels in Russia today," said Sir Craig Reedie, the agency's president. "This public admission by Russian President Vladimir Putin that their 'anti-doping system has failed' is an important step in the right direction."
But the drawbacks to which Putin referred?
The McLaren panel found evidence that government officials took part in cheating, especially as it related to manipulation of samples at a Russian anti-doping lab.
"There has never been any institutional conspiracy to conceal positive doping tests in Russia and there never will be," Putin was quoted as saying. "On the contrary, doping will only be fought against."
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