The author of the McLaren report into state-sponsored doping in Russian sport believes there have been indications the scandal-plagued country is serious about cleaning up its act.
Professor Richard McLaren on Friday released more information from his independent investigation, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), into alleged widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs and the manipulation of test results in Russia in recent years.
McLaren has claimed more than 1000 athletes were involved in or benefited from the programme since 2011, which skewed the results of the 2012 Olympics in London on an “unprecedented scale”.
The Canadian expressed his belief Russia is divided between those in denial over the extent of the issue and the progressive elements seeking to mitigate the fallout of the alleged conspiracy to cheat.
Speaking exclusively to Omnisport, McLaren said: “The individual response of an athlete if they are doping is [to] deny, deny, deny and deny it again, until you can’t deny it any longer because it’s obvious they’re … lying.
“I think that’s the state of affairs in Russia. Let’s not listen to the message, let’s attack the messenger.
“I detect also there’s maybe a bit of a split here.
“I had the opportunity to talk to some senior Russian ministry officials and when I have those conversations I think they are genuinely interested in saying, ‘there is some sort of a doping problem. We don’t agree with your description of it as being state sponsored’.
“[But] they’ll say, ‘we do have a doping problem, we have it lower down in the grassroots with the coaches and the athletes and we want to change it’. And I think they genuinely do.
“That doesn’t mean that the athletes on the ground and the trainers and coaches want to change it, particularly when you have a system where the coaches are dependent for their livelihood by the success of the athletes. On that basis the upper-level officials may wish to change everything, but is it going to change down below them?”
Asked what Russia has to do to prove it is serious about combating doping, he said: “The best impact would be to act quickly and demonstrate to the rest of the world that you really have changed.
“I think the Russian officials have tried to do that, I think they’re going to do that.
“They want to put this new anti-doping regime and rules in place which they claim will be the best in the world. Show us what they are … maybe it will be the best in the world, good for them if it is.”