Moscow: Calls for Russia to be excluded from the 2016 Olympics over doping allegations is aimed at tarnishing the country's image, Russia's sports minister said yesterday, ahead of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
"This possibility exists because some benefit from removing a direct competitor, and others benefit from soiling the country's image," Vitaly Mutko told RIA Novosti state news agency, adding that honest Russian athletes should not have to suffer because of "those who break some rules".
A World Anti-Doping (WADA) independent commission released a 335-page report on Monday outlining "state-supported" doping in Russian athletics and large-scale corruption.
It recommended that the country's athletics federation be suspended. Mutko is set to discuss the report with President Vladimir Putin at a meeting that will also look at Russia's preparations for the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the doping allegations would be "touched on" at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, but insisted it would not be the main topic of discussion as the meeting had been on the cards for weeks.
Putin has yet to comment himself on the bombshell allegations made in the WADA report. The Kremlin, however, has already dismissed the allegations as "groundless" and sport authorities in the country have promised a rapid response to avoid being sidelined from next year's Games.
Mutko said he would today provide an answer to WADA's allegations against Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA, adding that the organisation had "no doubt" it could meet international anti-doping standards.