Putin: Russia will cooperate to eradicate doping
MOSCOW (AP) President Vladimir Putin on Thursday pledged that Russia would cooperate with international officials to eradicate the ''poison'' of doping, but said it was wrong to suspend athletes who have not been accused of cheating.
Putin suggested the IAAF's blanket suspension of Russia's entire track and field team was unfair because it penalized athletes for the cheating of others.
Russia's track and field federation was suspended by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency panel accused the country of operating a widespread, state-sponsored doping program and covering up positive tests. The penalty could keep Russia's track and field athletes out of next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
''If someone is doping, they should definitely be punished in the proper way because it destroys the idea of fair competition,'' Putin said in his annual news conference. ''Those who are guilty - the coach, the organizer, the athlete - they should be held responsible. Those who have nothing to do with it should not answer for those who are violating something. It's not fair and it's not right.''
Putin promised to make sure that Russian officials work with international bodies to fight doping, which he described as a ''poison for people.''
''Russia must and will be open for a joint fight on doping,'' he said in televised remarks. ''I will order officials on all levels to cooperate openly with international bodies, not cover up anything. It's in our interests.''
Putin also reacted to the corruption scandals at FIFA which are overshadowing Russia's preparations to host the World Cup in 2018.
Asked to comment on the ongoing investigation, he said that Russia has done nothing wrong and had won the right to host the soccer tournament in an ''honest competition.''
Putin also praised FIFA's suspended president, Sepp Blatter, for his contribution to world soccer and reiterated his belief - first expressed in July - that Blatter deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.