Russia sets up taskforce to wipe out doping 'infection'
MOSCOW (AP) Russia set up a taskforce Wednesday to wipe out the ''infection'' of doping in track and field as the country faces being banned from next year's Olympic competition.
The Russian athletics federation was suspended Friday by the IAAF after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency accused the country of operating a state-sponsored doping program.
The chairman of the new taskforce, Gennady Alyoshin, said the group consists of officials from sport federations, the government and an athletes' representative. He said the aim is ''to root out this infection'' in the track and field federation.
With only nine months until the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov denied that any changes would be purely cosmetic.
While the committee will work to get Russia's track and field ban lifted, he said: ''The main task is not just to fight back against the criticism that's being directed at us, but to really clean up our sport and get rid of doping.''
To ensure reforms are implemented, the taskforce has been given some powers to run the Russian athletics federation ahead of new federation elections in January, Zhukov said. It will also liaise with the IAAF and WADA on Russia's progress in cleaning up track and field.
The announcement of the taskforce comes after Zhukov met IOC president Thomas Bach in Switzerland last week and the two reached an agreement that Russia would punish all athletes, coaches and officials connected with doping in return for clean Russian athletes being allowed to compete in Rio.
''We feel serious support from the International Olympic Committee for the Russian Olympic Committee and all our clean athletes,'' Zhukov said Wednesday. ''If in the end our athletes go to the Olympics in Rio, all clean athletes, then we'll consider that the committee's work is completely done.''
Zhukov dismissed suggestions from some Russian athletes and officials that Russia's track team could compete at the Olympics under the IOC or Russian Olympic Committee flag as a compromise solution, which would likely mean their results would not count toward Russia's standing in the medals table.
''Russian athletes should compete under the Russian flag. That's our position and we'll keep strongly to that,'' he said.
Zhukov also restated Russia's position that it will not consider boycotting the Olympics.
As well as Alyoshin, who has previously represented Russia in managing UNESCO's anti-doping fund, the taskforce also contains representatives of the Russian badminton and modern pentathlon federations, the Sports Ministry, lawyers and Olympic gold medal-winning synchronized swimmer Olga Brusnikina.
Earlier, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Russian media the panel would also include law enforcement representatives.
The conciliatory tone from Zhukov and Alyoshin was in contrast to a combative appearance by Mutko at the Russian parliament earlier Wednesday.
Mutko suggested that WADA was under external ''pressure'' and suggested that medals from the 2012 Olympics should not be reallocated if doping is proved. That is a key issue for Russia, which lost a discus silver medal after a doping sample was retested after the London Olympics and could lose more medals in an ongoing legal battle over whether some athletes found guilty of doping should have their Olympic results disqualified.