From Russia with love: Is ‘sorry’ enough to lift the Rio ban?

Getty Images

In an article published in The Sunday Times last weekend the Russian sports minister apologised for the doping scandal surrounding the country. Vitaly Mutko said Russia is 'ashamed' of its cheating athletes and maintains he is committed to ensuring the sport is 'clean and fair'.

Mutko went on to argue that maintaining the ban for the 2016 Rio Olympics would be 'unfair and disproportionate' and that clean athletes who will have been rigorously tested in time for Rio should not be punished.

Russia was banned from international competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency following one of the worst doping scandals in modern sport allegedly involving state-sponsored cheating. But despite failing to comply with anti-doping procedures, Mutko maintained it was the athletes 'who tried to deceive us'.

'We do not deny having a problem in Russia, and we are doing everything possible at state level to eradicate doping, including punishing athletes and coaches found to have violated anti-doping rules,' he wrote. 'But doping is a global problem, not just a Russian problem.'

By the time Rio gets underway in August, Mutko argued that Russian athletes hoping to compete will have been through a minimum of three anti-doping controls by the sport's world governing body - the IAAF - in addition to in-competition testing.

'These are men and women who have sacrificed years of their lives striving to compete at the very highest level, who have dreamed of taking part in the Olympic Games, and who now face having their sacrifice wasted and their dreams shattered', he said.

'They are weighty. Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport, for immediate benefits.

'Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.'

Although he made a public apology on behalf of Russia, Mutko stopped short of admitting the doping scandal was state sponsored.

'We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values,' he said.

He added that measures put in place since the ban - including handing over all testing to the UK Anti-Doping Agency until Russia's own programme is restored, changing the leadership of Russian athletics and handing over alleged doping cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne - mean testing is now 'extra transparent'.

'No other country's athletes will have been placed under the spotlight to the same degree as ours will be,' Mutko wrote. 'Such an intense glare does not allow anywhere for cheats to hide.

'We have done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated.

'It would be unjust to demand all these changes and measures, witness them happen, and then still punish Russia's athletes.'