Doping Scandal Jeopardizes Olympic Dreams Of Russian Athletes : Parallels Russia is the world's leader in doping violations, but the country's sports minister says it shouldn't be singled out for "an evil that all countries are struggling with."

Doping Scandal Jeopardizes Olympic Dreams Of Russian Athletes

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The organization that combats drug abuse in world sports recently declared that Russia's anti-doping agency doesn't comply with international rules. That was another blow to Russian track and field stars. A ban could keep them from competing at next summer's Olympics in Rio. Russian sports officials say that they're being unfairly singled out. NPR's Corey Flintoff has this report.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The doping scandal threatens to undo some of Russia's Olympic triumphs like this one, the 800-meter final at the 2012 games in London.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Here come the Russians, though, led by the long-striding Savinova and then Poistogova - Savinova again in black, rapidly...

FLINTOFF: Russia's Mariya Savinova and her teammate Ekaterina Poistogova held back for the first half of the race then suddenly burst ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Flying down the home straight, and she's going to win by a huge margin.

FLINTOFF: Savinova showed amazing energy as she powered across the finish line.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: What a strange way to run the race - looks as though she's got a mile of running in her left.

FLINTOFF: Poistogova took the bronze medal, and the two women posed proudly, wrapped in the white, blue and red Russian flag. A special report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency now says that neither of those athletes should have been allowed to compete because they had drug test profiles that indicated they were doping. The report recommended that they and three other Russian track stars be banned from the sport for life. Russia's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, says Russia will reform its program.


VITALY MUTKO: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: But he insists that Russia shouldn't be singled out for an evil that all countries are struggling with. Statistics issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency last June indicate that Russia does, in fact, have a bigger problem than most. The figures from 2013 show that Russia was the world leader in doping violations with 225 that year, 42 of them in track and field. Turkey was next with 188. The United States was in 11th place with 43 doping violations.

The independent commission that issued the latest report put the blame squarely on the Russian sports minister and other top officials. This is the commission chief, Richard Pound.

RICHARD POUND: All of this could not have happened and continue to happen without the knowledge of and either actual or implied consent of the state authorities.

FLINTOFF: As of now, at least, those same authorities are in charge of reforming the anti-doping system. Russian officials and prominent athletes have appeared on state-run media, saying that all Russian athletes are being subjected to collective punishment for the misdeeds of a few. Pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva condemned the International Association of Athletics Federations for its decision to ban Russian athletes from international competitions.


YELENA ISINBAYEVA: (Through interpreter) What the IAAF decided was something I considered totally unjust and not fair to honest, clean athletes.

FLINTOFF: Isinbayeva and many of her teammates still hope to compete in Rio next summer, but athletes from other countries, such as former U.S. Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses, have called for the Russian team to be banned. He says the doping allegations mean that Russian cheating deprived clean athletes from other countries of their chance to win a medal. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow.

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