Putin orders Russian diplomats to seek doping rule changes

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s diplomats on Tuesday to seek changes to international doping rules in the wake of the nation’s drug scandals.

A month after the Winter Olympics took place without a full Russian team, part of the country’s punishment for past doping offenses, Putin said the Foreign Ministry should try to alter the key treaty underpinning anti-doping work worldwide.

He said Russian diplomats working with UNESCO should aim to “refine” the existing International Convention against Doping in Sport so that “the rules are fair and absolutely transparent.”

In his first comments on sports matters since winning a fourth term in Sunday’s election, Putin said the government would continue to “defend the sporting honor of our country and its clean athletes, (and) stand up for sport without politics or double standards.”

Putin, in comments reported by state news agencies, didn’t say exactly what changes should be made or how they could be achieved. Short-term results are unlikely since the next conference on the convention isn’t due until next year.

Putin has previously argued for tighter rules on therapeutic use exemptions, which allow athletes to use otherwise-banned substances if they have a medical need. Putin has argued the exemptions are abused by athletes from other countries, though some leading Russians have also had them.

Putin was meeting Tuesday with Russian athletes from the Paralympics, who were required to compete at this month’s games under the designation “Neutral Paralympic Athletes” as part of the country’s punishment for what the International Paralympic Committee said was widespread doping in previous years.

The UNESCO treaty is the basis for the global drug-testing system led by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has accused Russia of running a state-sponsored doping program in dozens of sports.

Former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov has said he helped Russian athletes use performance-enhancing drugs and covered up their doping use, including at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. His testimony, as well as documents he provided, paved the way for Russia to be formally barred from last month’s Pyeongchang Olympics. However, 168 athletes competed as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” after receiving invitations from the International Olympic Committee, making up one of the largest teams at the games.

The Russian government has said it and its athletes have unfairly been maligned, and paints Rodchenkov as a traitor whose evidence is unreliable.

The International Convention against Doping in Sport was adopted in 2005 and requires 187 signatories, including Russia and the United States, to follow WADA rules on no-notice testing for athletes and other anti-doping provisions. Countries can propose amendments at a conference held every two years in Paris. The last such conference took place in September.

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