Meeting between Putin and Russian sports leaders canceled

Posted at 6:01 AM, Nov 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-11 08:58:29-05

MOSCOW (AP) — Vladimir Putin canceled a meeting with the country's sports leaders on Wednesday because of heavy rain in Sochi.

The Russian president had been due to discuss the doping allegations published Monday in the World Anti-Doping Agency commission's report. Because of the report, which accused Russia of operating a vast state-sponsored doping program, the country's track and field team is facing possible exclusion from next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Russian state news agencies, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reason for the cancellation was heavy rain that has restricted flights in and out of Sochi, the host city of last year's Winter Olympics.

"The decision was taken by the president to continue his working timetable," Peskov said in comments reported by the RIA Novosti agency.

Putin had been due to meet with track federation coach Yuri Borzakovsky and other Russian sports leaders in Sochi. The plane carrying the sports officials was forced to land in the city of Mineralnye Vody, where they have instead arranged a meeting with Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov.

Peskov added that Putin would be briefed and may hold another meeting on sports and doping issues later in the day, depending on how the weather conditions develop.

On Friday, track's governing body is scheduled to decide whether to suspend Russia, the first step toward preventing the country from competing on the track at the Olympics in Rio.

IOC President Thomas Bach said in interview with New Zealand television that he believes Russia will take steps to ensure it complies with global anti-doping rules in time to avoid a ban.

In Russia, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the country was ready to cooperate with WADA and asked the agency to provide a "road map" of reforms to implement.

"If we carry it out, let's shake hands," Mutko told the Interfax news agency.

Mutko also took a shot at Britain, criticizing the country's anti-doping authorities for failing to catch all the supposed Russian drug cheats at the 2012 London Olympics.

The WADA panel's doping report implicated Mutko's ministry in covering up failed drug tests by Russian athletes. It also said that six athletes were allowed to compete at the London Olympics after earlier anti-doping cases against them were slowed down.

"If you're accusing our athletes today, then I'm afraid your system is zero and worse than ours," Mutko said.

Athletes can use a variety of techniques to evade detection, including timing consumption so the banned substances leave their system before competition.

Besides serving as sports minister, Mutko is also the head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee and a member of the FIFA executive committee. Responding to comments from English Football Association president Greg Dyke that FIFA should consider suspending the Russian minister's membership, Mutko said it was "absurd."

"So should I raise the issue of suspending the British football federation from FIFA?" Mutko said.