Russia ready to give up ski World Cups amid doping scandal

MOSCOW (AP) Russia is prepared to give up hosting rights for some World Cup cross-country skiing races to help the country's image amid a doping scandal.

Elena Valbe, the president of the Russian cross-country skiing federation, said she would ''absolutely'' allow the March 16-19 final round of the World Cup in Tyumen to be moved outside the country if it would generate goodwill to let Russia compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

''My deep conviction is that now we need to think about our team going to the Olympics Games,'' Valbe told state news agency R-Sport on Thursday. ''A World Cup stage is a second-level issue.''

Russia is again under pressure after a report last week by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren detailed a vast, state-sponsored doping cover-up involving 12 medalists from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

On Tuesday, the 2017 world bobsled and skeleton championships were moved from Russia after several of the top sliders said they would not compete in the country because of doping concerns, something Valbe argued had set a precedent for more events being transferred or canceled.

''If one federation is doing something, there's probably a joint agreement, or at least they've consulted among themselves,'' she said.

In July, the International Olympic Committee encouraged winter sports federations not to schedule competitions in Russia because of doping concerns, though the call prompted little response at the time.

On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that an ''atmosphere'' of suspicion around Russia was not enough to move events like the bobsled world championships.

''The anti-doping campaign has turned into an anti-Russian campaign,'' Medvedev said. ''What's atmosphere got to do with it if there's a contract?''

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